What Is an Action Plan and How To Make One

Updated June 24, 2022

No matter what industry you're in, chances are that you will need to complete a project using an action plan. Action plans are used to determine what is needed for a project and how to go about completing it. In this article, we will discuss further what an action plan is, how to write one and tips to improve the process.

What is an action plan?

An action plan is a list of steps or directions for a new strategy to succeed. It's made up of five primary sections:

1. Task list

The duties involved must be defined and clear. You can begin by thinking of ideas or areas that should be addressed to complete the objective. Consider what tasks should be prioritized over others and what it will take to get through each task.

2. Timetable

Establishing a precise timetable is key to ensuring a plan completes at a specified time. You can begin by setting a start date. From there, set checkpoints or times in which certain tasks must be finished. You must also set a due date for the full project to be ready.

3. Resources

Determining the number of resources required will benefit the overall process. You'll know when and where to allocate resources as well as how much to give. It ensures that you don't overspend or underspend during the project.

4. Members involved

Assigning members or whole teams to certain tasks is essential to getting the work done. All those involved need to know what they should be working on and where they need to be at any point throughout the project.

5. Communication

Ensure proper communication channels are set up by establishing a hierarchy. For example, one team member may be responsible for assigning and allocating resources. When a team requires more resources, they must contact the individual in charge of that area of production.

How to write an action plan

To write an effective action plan, several steps must be followed to get the best results. You can follow the next five steps in order:

1. Define a goal

For a project to succeed, you must first define what that success is. For example, if you need to build a new program for your team to work with greater efficiency, a defined goal would be to complete the program.

Before continuing, make sure your goal fits SMART criteria. To do so, it must be:

  • Specific: The goal must be well-defined. Team members should understand what it is clearly.

  • Measurable: The goal must be tangible in a way that it can be measured. Ask yourself if the goal can be tracked and progress can be monitored.

  • Attainable: The goal must be feasible and able to be completed within the allotted time frame. You should ensure you have the resources required to complete the goal.

  • Relevant: The goal must align with your company's vision or other goals. Will this goal move the company forward, or will it not benefit it at all?

  • Time-bound: The goal needs a specific time frame for completion. It should have both a start and end date.

2. List your steps

Now that the goal is defined, you must determine how to reach it. Team members and due dates must also be assigned to each task. You can follow the three-column example shown below:

Task Assigned Due
Order the required parts Tony Russo 1/22/20
Complete construction Andrea Chernov 2/10/20
Review  construction Jacob Garcia 2/15/20

Each task listed should pass a SMART test before moving forward. Team members should be assigned to every task with a specific due date for their completion. It's important to make sure all members have access to this information as well.

3. Set checkpoints or milestones

Team morale can benefit from setting milestones throughout the project. Final due dates are daunting, but setting shorter, easier goals is a good plan of action. It creates a sense of accomplishment each time one is met.

A balance between these milestones must be maintained, however. The distance between them should not be too long or too short. They should be easy to obtain but should also demand a decent effort.

4. Monitor your project

Meet with your team through each stage of the process. You can evaluate their progress and confirm when tasks are complete. This step is really what you created an action plan for. It's to add structure and uniformity so that you can watch its progress from start to finish.

It's also a great way to report to upper management that a project is meeting its goals. You can check in with them at every step. You'll also be the first to know when a problem arises thanks to your action plan.

How to manage action plans

Step four of the previous section only touches on the full duties of action plan management. Remember that it's a living document that should stay with you over the course of the project period.

It's best to use project managersoftware or the power of the cloud to share this document. All team members can see it in real-time and can monitor their own progress without constant input.

Changes may be required throughout the project's duration. You can set up alerts or notifications that can be sent to all members when a change occurs. This prevents confusion and allows team members to make adjustments where needed.

Tips for creating good action plans

Action plans are a valuable asset for any project. Creating and monitoring them well takes time and experience. Below are a few tips to help:

Focus on priorities

You may have determined in your plan which tasks to prioritize, but you should be prepared for changes as they are needed. When a situation like this arises, you have to be able to make the call on whether it's a high-priority item.

Mark completed tasks as completed

For larger projects with multiple tasks, it's challenging to keep up with the progress that has been made. Be sure to mark every task as completed once you have confirmation. For example, if you're using a spreadsheet, you can highlight each task that has been completed. This makes it easier for all team members to understand what's been done and what's left to do.

Watch for impending or late tasks

If you notice that a specific task may not reach its goal, it should become a priority. You need to determine what the barrier is and how to overcome it. Staying ahead of problems will guarantee the success of your action plan.


Explore more articles

  • How to Deal With Someone You Don't Like at Work
  • How To Become a Model: 7 Tips
  • Presenting and Arranging Data: How To Explain a Graph
  • What Is Skewed Data in Statistics? (With Definition and Example)
  • How To Cancel a Google Calendar Event in 5 Steps (Plus Tips)
  • How To Organize Departments (With Steps and Examples)
  • 6 Top Leadership Training Programs in 2023
  • 30 Fun Certifications You Can Pursue To Get a Job You Enjoy
  • How To Write a Research Plan (With Template and Examples)
  • How To Write a Shift Change Request Letter (With Template)
  • 36 Ideas for Fun Morning Huddles
  • 18 Common Manager Weaknesses and Tips for Overcoming Them