How To Write An Action Plan (With Template And Example)

Updated 1 October 2022

Having a plan of action is essential for achieving your goals. It helps you create a clear path towards your goal, channelise your efforts in the right direction and keep track of the achievements. The exact details to include in an action plan depend on the complexity of your goals and the number of resources you wish to allocate. In this article, we discuss the meaning and importance of an action plan and look at the steps involved in writing an effective one, along with a simple template and example.

Related: Steps Involved in a Successful Career Planning Process

What Is An Action Plan?

An action plan is an outline of the series of steps you are required to take to achieve your goal. It breaks down the process of accomplishing your goal into time-bound actionable tasks. Preparing one is an effective way of accomplishing your goal or target more efficiently within a set timeframe. You can use an action plan for project management or for your personal goals.

An effective action plan is required to include the following details:

  • A brief description of the goal

  • The sequence of tasks to be performed

  • Identification of the people responsible for completing the tasks

  • Timeline for completion of the tasks

  • Resources required for the tasks

  • System for periodic progress evaluation

Once you prepare an action plan, you are required to review your progress periodically and make necessary changes to the plan to reflect the changes in strategy and situation.

Related: Business Plan Format (Plus Definition And Step-By-Step Guide)

Why Do We Need An Action Plan?

We need an action plan because it makes it easier to achieve our goals and targets. Here are some of the major benefits it offers:

  • An action plan sets a clear path to pursue your goal. It removes confusion and tells you what steps to take to achieve your goal in an efficient way.

  • You can also create an action plan for projects and businesses. It enables you to divide a project into step-by-step tasks, fix responsibility for each task and track the progress.

  • Having an action plan can make you more likely to keep you motivated and committed to your goal. You are more likely to complete a project or achieve your goal on schedule and within your budget.

  • An action plan considers the obstacles you may face on the way. This helps you to be mentally prepared and look for solutions instead of going slow on your project. Thus, an action plan keeps you focused and boosts your productivity.

  • Since there is a clear order of steps you require to take, an action plan automatically prioritises your tasks, efforts and resources. Everyone in the team is clear about their roles and responsibilities. This removes any potential misunderstanding and creates a mutual bond between the team members, ensuring the success of the project.

  • An action plan enables you to monitor your progress towards the goal. If required, you can make timely changes to the plan to adapt to the changed circumstances.

Related: SWOT Analysis Guide (With Examples)

How To Write An Action Plan?

Initially, writing an action plan may sound overwhelming since you are required to develop a clear idea about what needs to be done. This often requires you to perform the necessary research and dedicate enough time to prepare the plan. But, all the efforts and time you dedicate would be worth it, as it would help you achieve your goals efficiently and in time. While the exact tasks of each action plan may differ, the basic structure and the types of information to include remain similar. Here are the major steps involved in creating an action plan:

1. Describe your goals

First of all, identify the goals you want to achieve. This involves setting a target for yourself. If you are writing an action plan for a project, you can discuss the goals with the team to reach a common understanding. Taking opinions from team members also gives them a sense of belonging and involvement, which in turn motivates them to achieve the set goal.

To make your goal effective, make sure that it meets the SMART principle. SMART is an abbreviation for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

  • Specific: Define your goal in specific terms.

  • Measurable: Quantify your goal to make it measurable.

  • Achievable: Keep your goal realistic so that you can achieve it with the resources available to you.

  • Relevant: Your goal is required to contribute to your mission. It is required to be relevant to your interests and abilities. The short-term goals you set are required to support your long-term goals.

  • Time-bound: Set a deadline for achieving your goal.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

2. Determine the actions required

Once the goal is clear, you are required to determine the process to achieve it. Break down the overall broad process into small, simple tasks. Now organise these tasks in the order of priority. Think about the obstacles you may face. Solving such obstacles may constitute separate tasks, and you may be required to include them too in the list. Each task is required to be clear and easy to execute. If there is any complex task, you require to break it down further.

Related: Guide: How To Effectively Use Action Verbs in Your Resume

3. Develop a timeline

Set a deadline to achieve your goal. You further require to break down this deadline into smaller timeframes for each individual task. The timeline you establish is required to be realistic. Make sure that it gives you reasonable time to complete the tasks while making consistent progress towards the main goal. This would require you to consider the requirements of each item in the list carefully.

One effective technique to establish milestones is to start from the last task. The completion date of the last task is required to coincide with the project completion date. You can then start assigning dates to individual tasks in backward order.

Related: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

4. Identify necessary resources

You are required to consider the resources you have for achieving your goal. If you plan to acquire some resources at a later stage, the acquisition cost is required to be within your budget. In such cases, you can mark the cost against the relevant task. In the case of larger projects, you often require to fix the responsibility for each task to specific team members. This may require you to make a proper assessment of your team members' skills and abilities to match them against the tasks they are best suited for.

5. Track the progress

Finally, as you begin to execute the tasks, you require to monitor the progress along the way. For this, you require to set up a standard process for evaluating the progress. Make sure you clearly describe the evaluation process, such as periodic team meetings and internal reporting tools, in the action plan. It would ensure that all the team members have a clear idea of what you expect from them.

Related: Guide: How To Create An Individual Development Plan

Action Plan Template

Following is a simple template you can use to create an action plan for a variety of goals and projects. You can tweak it to suit the specific requirements of your case.

Problem: [Brief summary of the problem the project looks to solve]
Goal: [Briefly describe the goal or project]
Action plan:

  • List of actions or steps required to achieve the goal

  • The person responsible for each task

  • Deadline for completing each task

  • Resources required for each task

  • Potential barriers or obstacles you may face for each task

  • The desired outcome for each task

Evidence of success: [Final outcome of the project]
Evaluation process: [Method for assessing the progress of the project]

Action Plan Example

Here is an example of an action plan for increasing the market share of a certain product:

Problem: Slow growth in sales of our product.
Goal: Increase the sales of our product by 50% within one year.

SMART goal:
The current sale of our product is Rs.1 crore per year. We require to increase it to Rs.1.5 crore. We would achieve this by recruiting and training more employees in the sales and marketing department.
Our target in six months: Add 10 employees, train all the sales and marketing staff, run aggressive sales and marketing campaigns and achieve sales of Rs.1.2 crore.
Our target in 12 months: Achieve sales of Rs. 1.5 crore.

Action plan

Task 1. Recruitment
Action: Identify the desired skills in the new employees and work with the HR department to recruit 10 employees in the sales and marketing department.
Completion date: August 2021
Person responsible: Deputy sales manager

Task 2. Training
Action: Impart training to all sales and marketing staff in communication skills, product presentation, sales strategy and customer service.
Completion date: September 2021
Person responsible: Assistant sales manager

Task 3: Review competitors' strategy
Action: Study our competitors' sales and marketing strategy
Completion date: October 2021
Person responsible: Area sales manager

Task 4. Devise and implement new sales and marketing campaigns
Action: Take feedback from our field marketing team and repeat customers and devise effective sales and marketing campaigns to generate more sales.
Completion date: November 2021
Person responsible: Area sales manager

Evidence of success: Yearly sales of Rs.1.5 crore.
Evaluation process: Reviewing the number and skills of the sales staff and the total sales figure.

Related: Step-by-Step Guide for How To Make a Career Plan Effectively

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