What Is an Action Plan?
An action plan is the blueprint of a project. It outlines all the project's steps and describes them in detail. The starting point is the project's goal(s) because an action plan's will outline the actions, resources, and steps needed to acomplish it.
But an action plan doesn't include only actions that have to be done. It also provides information about:
- who will do each task and subtask;
- the project's timeframe, divided by activities and tasks;
- the project's budget, divided by activities and tasks;
- a list of resources (existing and required);
- reporting methods and timeline;
- planned events;
- scheduled meetings.
Why Do You Need an Action Plan?
A comprehensive and well-written action plan will help project managers understand the project and reach their goals. It's important to have everything outlined from the beginning to track tasks, organize resources, and motivate people. Each project stage takes you one step closer to the finish line. There are no less important tasks or less important people. The action plan showcases the causality of each action and ways to complete the project on time, overcome unexpected challenges, increase teamwork, and generate valuable reports.
An action plan is not of utmost importance just for the project manager. It provides a straightforward path for employees, helping them to stay motivated, plan their time off accordingly, be more responsible, and work together toward a common goal. Here, HR apps and processes play a decisive role because they provide transparency, reduce response time, and improve communication between and within teams.
How to Write an Action Plan?
Writing an action plan from scratch may seem overwhelming at first. However, following a few simple steps may help you find the structure and pace your project needs. As a general rule, divide the information into specific categories: goals, actions, time, resources, and tracking methods. Don't granulate the categories too much because all of them will include subcategories. Tackling one category at a time will help you stay on the right path. Here are the main steps of writing an action plan:
1. Define Goals
The project's goals are the first and most important category covered by your action plan. Why do you need this project? To reach particular goals that couldn't be achieved otherwise. Thus start with setting your goal or goals. It's OK to have multiple goals; most projects do.
To stay on point, you can use the SMART criteria for setting goals. It is often used in project management because it eliminates confusion and helps you write goals everyone will understand. Check if your project's goals satisfy the SMART criteria before committing them to the action plan.
SMART stands for:
- Relevant, and
For example, the goal of an HR project may be implementing employee self-services in your company. However, just saying that will be too vague. But saying your goal is to purchase, install, and give in use an HR app specialized in employee self-services (Specific) used by all employees (Measurable) without costs (Achievable) to manage their leave balances (Relevant) before the end of the year (Time-bound) doesn't leave space for misunderstandings.
Tip: Remember that after you brainstormed the goals/tasks with your coworkers, prioritization is important since not all tasks are having the same weight or overall impact within the organization.
2. Define Actions
How do you plan to reach your goals? List all actions that support your project. Create a tree structure for your activities, starting with large tasks and dividing them into smaller, more accurate subtasks. Going step by step helps you track the project easier. Furthermore, it allows you to accurately divide resources, such as employees, tools, and budget. A step-by-step approach is also better for the staff's morale. They can keep pace, acknowledge their results, and plan their annual leave considering the project's development.
Continuing the example above, a list of actions may include the following:
- researching the best HR apps on the market that provide employee self-services;
- selecting the best option for your company;
- acquiring mobile devices for employees who don't have access to computers;
- implementing new software;
- organizing instruction sessions to teach employees how to use the software.
- gathering feedback.
Tip: SCHEMES is an abbreviation that allows you to see if you have everything you need to finish a plan.
SCHEMES is an acronym known for:
- S: Space
- C: Cash
- H: Helpers
- E: Equipment
- M: Materials
- E: Expertise
- S: Systems.
3. Create a Timeframe
Besides your final deadline when defining the project's goals, you need to create a timeline for each activity and task. How much time will it take for the research stage? How about for the teaching process? Associate time to each task and subtask, leaving some reasonable time for surprises. Not everything goes according to the plan all the time. For example, purchasing software may be delayed by contractual issues impossible to predict in advance.
Tip: When handling many tasks and wanting to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and deadlines and milestones are reached, a Gantt chart can help. Learn how to make one or use our template.
4. Organize Resources
In this step, consider how many people you will need to complete the project, what software you need, and the project's costs. Again, divide resources per activity, task, and subtask, following the timeline for each. Outline what resources you already have and what you need.
For example, you may need to buy mobile devices for some employees or hire people to do the training. You may also need money to purchase software licenses, rent spaces for workshops, or update the company's computers to support the new software.
Tip: In this step, as a manager or executive you might need to delegate some of the tasks. Learn how to do delegate like a pro.
5. Define Tracking and Reporting Tools
The action plan should include methods and tools for monitoring the entire project. Describe how you, or the person in charge of an activity, will ensure the task is done on time, evaluate impact, present results, and schedule meetings. Use quantitative measurements, such as milestones, statistics, and feedback scores.
Monitoring also reveals jobs that are pending, delayed, or not proceeding as planned, in which case you will be able to determine why, identify suitable remedies, and then adjust it accordingly.
In our example, you may want to assess how many employees have devices ready for software installation (new or updated), how many employees have received training, employees' feedback, and so on. You may also want to schedule meetings after completing each large stage and a financial report at the end of the project.
Tip: The methodology presented usually fits well with small projects. As you become more experienced in succeeding with action plans, you will start to handle more complex initiatives. In this case, practical project management skills will be essential when things get more complicated and you must coordinate more people while meeting tight deadlines.
Action Plan Example
In the following, we put together the example of an action plan we've been using for this article:
Problem: A confusing and inefficient leave management system that creates leave clashes and keeps employees waiting a long time to respond to their leave requests.
Goal: SMART: Purchase, install, and give in use an HR app specialized in employee self-services used by all employees without costs to manage their leave balances before the end of the year.
Action Plan to Achieve the Goal:
Activity 1: Researching
Task 1: State-of-the-art HR apps specialized in employee self-service.
Task 2: Analyze costs and implementation requirements.
Task 3: Review the free trial versions.
Task 4: Decide on an HR app and start the acquisition process.
Start date: May 1st, 2024
End date: May 31st, 2024
Resources: HR team (2 people/ full-time), Acquisition team (1 person/ part-time), Juridical team (1 person, consulting)
Activity 2: Implementing the best-fit HR app
Task 1: Analysis of the current cloud-based software resources.
Task 2: Create an inventory of the people data to be migrated to the cloud (optional, based on Task 1 results).
Task 3: Implement the new software.
Task 4: Communicating with the workforce on the upcoming change in handling time-off and training.
Start date: June 1st, 2024
End date: June 30th, 2024
Resources: IT team (1 person/ full-time), Executive team (1 person/ part-time), HR team (1 person, part-time)
Activity 3: Training employees
Task 1: Plan training sessions, dividing employees into groups.
Task 2: Rent or book office space.
Task 3: Schedule training sessions.
Task 4: Gather feedback
Start date: July 1st, 2024
End date: August 31st, 2024
Resources: HR team (2 people/ full-time)
Activity 4: Run a test
Task 1: Select a trial group including employees with different jobs and work schedules.
Task 2: Analyze the program's efficiency and gather feedback from the test group.
Task 3: Generate reports and statistics to analyze data.
Start date: September 1st, 2024
End date: November 30th, 2024
Resources: HR team (3 people/ full-time)
Action Plan Template
If you don't want to write an action plan from scratch, look for templates that fit your business profile and project type. You can use a Microsoft Word or Excel template. They are easy to customize and share with your staff and management. You can have a structure for an action plan in seconds. Download our free action plan templates and get your project running right now.Action Plan Template Word Download The Action Plan Template Word Template
Action Plan Template Excel Download The Action Plan Template Excel Template
FAQ Action Plans
What are the main steps an individual should take when developing an action plan?
The main steps an individual should take when developing an action plan are: 1. Define goals, 2. Define actions, 3. Create a timeline, 4. Organize resources, 5. Define tracking and reporting tools.
What is the purpose of an action plan?
An action plan provides a framework to implement to complete a project efficiently. It clarifies the resources, the timeline, the critical tasks, and the steps needed to be done to achieve the main goal.
As intimidating as writing an action plan may sound, it is something we do every day. We do a mental action plan each morning when we think about what we want to do during the day: taking the kids to school is a goal that requires deciding who will do it, if they go by bus or car, and the associated budget, which routes you'll take the timeframe, and additional tasks, such as packing lunch, speaking with the teacher, or remembering to bring their art project. We do all these and more automatically. But the task will seem far less challenging if we put the same effort and time into writing action plans for our business projects and using templates.