How To Write an Action Plan (With Template and Example)
Having an action plan 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 action plan, along with a simple template and example.
What is an action plan?
An action plan is an outline of the series of steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal. It breaks down the process of accomplishing your goal into time-bound actionable tasks. Preparing an action plan 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 should 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 need to review your progress periodically and make necessary changes to the plan to reflect the changes in strategy and situation.
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 in order 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 need 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.
Read more: SWOT Analysis Guide (With Examples)
How to write an action plan
Initially, writing an action plan may sound overwhelming since you need 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. However, all the efforts and time you dedicate would be worth it, as it will 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.
In order 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 should contribute to your mission. It should be relevant to your interests and abilities. The short-term goals you set should support your long-term goals.
Time-bound: Set a deadline for achieving your goal.
Read more: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples
2. Determine the actions required
Once the goal is clear, you need 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 need to include them too in the list. Each task should be clear and easy to execute. If there is any complex task, you need to break it down further.
3. Develop a timeline
Set a deadline to achieve your goal. You further need to break down this deadline into smaller timeframes for each individual task. The timeline you establish should be realistic. Make sure that it gives you reasonable time to complete the tasks while making consistent progress towards the main goal. This will 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 should coincide with the project completion date. You can then start assigning dates to individual tasks in backward order.
4. Identify necessary resources
You need to consider the resources you have for achieving your goal. If you plan to acquire some resources at a later stage, the acquisition cost should be within your budget. In such cases, you can mark the cost against the relevant task. In the case of larger projects, you often need 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 need to monitor the progress along the way. For this, you need 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 will ensure that all the team members have a clear idea of what you expect from them.
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]
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.
The current sale of our product is Rs.1 crore per year. We need to increase it to Rs.1.5 crore. We will 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.
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.*
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