When you’re making a project, you start with a strategy. The action plan is that document. It outlines all the steps you need to do in order to accomplish your goal. Enter your email below and download your free action plan template for Excel and get on the road to success.
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What Is an Action Plan?
Just as the name says, an action plan is a plan of action. It can also be looked at as an explanation of one’s strategy or course of action to be taken for the successful completion of a project.
In project management, the action plan is literally a series of steps that must be taken to achieve whatever the project objective is. It speaks to the resources that will be needed to complete the project successfully, making a timeline that includes the tasks needed to achieve that goal. Team members are also determined at this juncture.
That doesn’t mean an action plan is a simple “to do” list, which can be a very general listing of things that are needed to get done. The action plan is specific and related only to a project, not outside tasks.
Why Use an Action Plan Template?
The action plan template is a very useful document in that it provides a framework for thinking pragmatically about getting things done in an efficient and effective manner. Using an action plan helps one order the tasks in a logical way and makes sure that you don’t neglect a critical step along the way. That’s where an action plan template can help, as a template already includes all the essential fields for an action plan.
When you finish filling in your action plan template, all the tasks are laid out in one place. This helps the project leader to assign or contract tasks as well as note priority levels. Some tasks can be either ignored or set aside for when there’s time to complete them.
It would be nearly impossible to plan a project, large or small, if you hadn’t first drawn a path forward, which allows one to see what resources are going to be needed to get the job done. The name of the plan, action plan, is also helpful. It avoids jargon and cuts to the chase. No one involved in the project will have any misunderstanding of the meaning of this document.
Who Uses & Updates the Action Plan Template?
One person is usually the owner of the process in making an action plan. They are accountable for its creation, keeping track of its progress and making sure the entire project team is updated. However, the action plan itself has individual team members assigned to each step, which they are responsible for completing.
The project manager is the likely person to own this process. They are the ones who will be determining the tasks, duration, assignments and so forth. But larger projects have bigger staffs and there a project coordinator or other personnel might be responsible. Whoever completes the action plan template, the project manager is going to have final say and will have the authority to update it as plans change.
How to Use Our Action Plan Template
Our action plan template for Excel is broken down into three sections, each with their own unique steps.
Section One – Action Steps
- Priority: Each task will have a priority attached to it. That is, it will be determined if the task is a high, medium or low priority, which will help you make a more realistic plan by knowing what is critical to the project’s success and what is not.
- Tasks: This is where you list every step that must be taken to complete the project. Be thorough. Brainstorm with the team. The more detailed, the better, as you can always flag what is and isn’t necessary by noting its priority.
- Phase: Here you will note where the action takes place over the course of the project life cycle, such as in the planning stage, execution, closing, etc.
- Assigned: Determine ownership of each individual task by assigning it to a specific team member. They will then be responsible for seeing the task through completion.
- Status: Here is where you chart the progress of the work done on each task. Enter a completion percentage or any status that you wish to assign.
Section Two – Timeline
- Start Date: This section is your schedule. Each task is tagged with a time in which it must begin to keep the project on track.
- Due Date: It is here that the due date is determined, so everyone working on that task is clear about when they must have it completed.
- Planned Hours: When planning, you have figured out how much time can be allotted to each task. Here is where you put that information.
Section Three – Resources
- Department: Which department is responsible for the task, marketing, dev team, etc.?
- Materials Required: What is needed for completion of that task, software, equipment, materials, site, etc.
- Cost: What amount of funding has the budget allotted to this task?
- Notes: Finally, this is a catchall for any information needed to capture which doesn’t fit in any of the other categories.
An Action Plan in Action
Once you have started the project, your action plan is going to act like a roadmap to help provide a course through the seemingly chaotic landscape. There are a few things you should keep in mind during the execution of a project to help when implementing your action plan:
- Stay focused on priorities, which are those deadlines that are coming up.
- When a task is done, mark it complete, so you have an up-to-date record of progress.
- Never leave a task unassigned, all tasks must be the responsibility of someone on the team.
- Stay in dialogue with your team and keep an ongoing discussion on pending or late tasks.
How to Import an Action Plan Template into ProjectManager.com
Once you have filled in all the cells in the free downloadable action plan Excel spreadsheet, adding all the tasks, their timeline and assigning them to the individual team member, then the fun begins.
Go to the Gantt chart view in ProjectManager.com, under Projects. There you’ll see a button to import in the ribbon on the upper right-hand side. Import your Excel template and all the data you put into it will be populated across the Gantt chart and the visual timeline.
Because ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based software, you can invite your team into the tool. No matter where they are or when they’re working, as they update their progress it will be instantly reflected on the software’s real-time dashboard, which can filter the information to show only what you want. Then you can create graphs and charts to make that data easy to read and share with stakeholders or team members, formatting the graphics generally or specifically, depending on the person’s need.
As noted earlier, alerts can be created to let team members know when tasks are near due. Alerts can also be set up so the team leader is aware as to those impending due dates or if a task is overdue, which can help them reallocate resources or do other things to get the project back on track.
Other Templates to Help with Your Action Plan
The action plan lays out the course you’ll take to achieve your project goals. Our free project management templates helps you start to organize the sequence of steps to get you there. Our site features dozens of free templates, many of which can help you create a better action plan. The following are three that you can use.
To further organize the tasks that will lead to your final deliverable, you’ll want to use the free Gantt chart template. A Gantt chart lays out all your project tasks across a timeline after you determine the duration. You can further break up the project into phases for easier management.
Tasks can’t be completed without resources, which is why the free work schedule template is so helpful. It organizes you team’s schedule and assists with managing their workflow. Here you can capture all your team members, where they’re working, their schedules and responsibilities over a specific period of time. This works with the action plan like a bridge leading to when you execute the project plan.
Once you enact your action plan during the execution phase of your project, you’re going to need a tool to monitor progress and make sure you’re meeting the targets outlined in your schedule. The free project dashboard template shows you the project tasks, your team’s workload, task lengths and costs.
ProjectManager.com is more than just the best software solution for project management, it is one of the best resources online for training videos and industry-related blog posts that cover every aspect of managing projects, from hard skills to soft.
The following are just a few of the resources related to action plans that you’ll find on our website.
ProjectManager.com for Executing Projects
If you’re looking to take your action plan to the next level, look no further than ProjectManager.com, a cloud-based project management software that controls every project phase. From a real-time dashboard to online Gantt charts and dynamic kanban boards, our software supersizes your project management. Try it free with this free 30-day trial.
(This post was updated September 2020)