What Is an Action Plan?
In project management, an action plan is a document that lists the action steps needed to achieve project goals and objectives. Therefore, an action plan clarifies what resources you’ll need to reach those goals, makes a timeline for the tasks or action items and determines what team members you’ll need to do it all. We’ll define what project goals, project objectives, action items and action steps are later on in this guide.
An action plan documents the execution of the project plan. That is, it’s a detailed list of the work that must be done to complete the project goals, including the action steps that are involved in getting from the start of the project to the finish. An action plan is similar to a project implementation plan and it’s very helpful during the project planning and project execution phases.
Not only are you figuring out the action steps and timeline, but you’ll also determine who you’ll assemble for your project team to work on those tasks.
Related: Free Action Plan Template
How to Write an Action Plan for Project Management in 10 Steps
The benefits of an action plan are simple: you have now outlined what action steps and what resources are needed to reach your stated project goals. By having this all collected in a single project management document, you can more successfully plan out how to execute your project plan.
People get overwhelmed by project management jargon when having to plan out a project, but the word action everyone can understand. The fundamentals to getting an action plan together for any project follow these four project planning basic steps:
1. Define your Project Goals
There’s a difference between project goals and project objectives. Project goals refer to the high-level goals that the project will achieve. Those generally align with the strategic planning and business objectives of organizations.
2. Define your Project Objectives
The project objectives are much more specific than the project goals. Project objectives refer to the deliverables and milestones that need to be completed to achieve your project goals.
3. Define Action Steps
The action steps are a group of related tasks or action items that must be executed to produce project deliverables.
4. Identify and Prioritize Action Items
Action items are small, individual tasks that make up the action steps that are outlined in your action plan. First, you need to identify task dependencies among them, and then assign those action items a priority level so that they’re executed sequentially.
5. Define Roles & Responsibilities
Now that you’ve divided the work required to accomplish your action plan, you’ll need to assign action items to your project team members and define their roles and responsibilities.
6. Allocate Resources
As with your project plan, your action plan has resource requirements. Having identified your action steps and action items will help you understand what resources are needed for each task and allocate them accordingly.
7. Set SMART Goals
Your action plan needs to be monitored and controlled to measure its performance. That’s why it’s important that you set SMART goals for your action items, action steps and your project objectives. SMART goals stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
8. Set a Timeline for your Action Plan
As a project manager you’ll need to do your best to estimate how long it’ll take to complete your action items and action steps. Once you do so, you’ll have a timeline. You can use project management techniques like PERT charts or the critical path method to better estimate the duration of your project action plan.
9. Write an Action Plan Template
Create or use a simple action plan template to collect tasks, deadlines and assignments. This is the place where everything task-related goes in your project action plan, so you have a place for all this crucial information.
Writing an action plan template it’s a great idea because you’ll need to use that format throughout the project. That’s why we’ve created a free action plan template that you can download.
10. Use a Project Management Tool
Use a project management tool to keep you on task. ProjectManager has project planning features that help you monitor and report on project progress and performance. Get a high-level view of the action plan with our live dashboards. Unlike other tools, we don’t make you set up the dashboard.
It’s ready for use the moment you open our project planning tools. More than that, we calculate the various metrics, such as project variance, workload and more. They’re displayed in easy-to-read charts and graphs. Share them with stakeholders to give them updates on action steps whenever they want. Sounds good? Try our tool for free by taking this 30-day trial.
Tips to Write an Action Plan
Once you have an action plan, how do you work with it to run a successful project? Here are some tips to help with implementing your action plan:
- Focus on priorities and what is due now when identifying action steps and setting your action plan timeline
- Mark completed the action steps complete
- Have your team members work on one project management platform
- Set Up Alerts
- Discuss pending or last tasks
Action Plan Example
Follow along with this example to see how action plans are typically laid out using project planning software.
ProjectManager can help you build your action plan and then execute it. Collect all your action steps tasks on our list view, which does more than light-weight to-do list apps. Unlike them, we can prioritize action items, customize tags and show the percentage complete for each task. Our cloud-based project management software gives you real-time data to help you create an action plan and stick to it.
Note Phases and Assignments
It’s important to note all the phases of the project timeline to know what action steps and tasks will take place, and when. You’ll also want to set roles and responsibilities to ensure the work is carried out properly.
Once you start the project, you’ll need to chart the progress of the work being done. This leads us to the timeline, where you’ll have a start and due date for each of your tasks, as well as how long you plan for it to take, so you can use this as a baseline and make sure you’re staying on target. You can make your project timeline on a Gantt chart.
Finally, your action plan will list resources. Who is responsible for which task, and what materials are involved? What are those costs? You also should have a section in the action plan for notes that don’t fall into any of the other categories. ProjectManager has resource management features that allow you to allocate resources for each action step and task of your action plan.
Manage Your Project with an Action Plan
Getting a plan together is only the first part of managing a project. Remember, it’s not something to write and put away, but a living document that should follow you throughout the project life cycle. Jennifer Bridges, PMP, offers more tips on how to write an action plan in the video below.
Here’s a screenshot for your reference:
How ProjectManager Can Help Your Action Plan
If you’re looking to make an action plan and then take action on it by executing, monitoring and reporting on a project, then you’ll want ProjectManager. Our cloud-based project management software can import your action plan into an online Gantt chart. Now you can organize your tasks, link dependencies and set milestones. More than that you can filter for the critical path. When you’re done scheduling, set the baseline. This allows you to always see the planned versus actual progress of your project to help you stay on track. Try our tool for free today.
From there you can assign tasks and give teams a collaborative platform to comment and share relevant documents. Dependent tasks can be linked to avoiding bottlenecks, and when things change, the schedule can be easily edited by simply dragging and dropping start and end dates.