What is an action plan? Generally, it’s a proposed strategy or course or action. Specifically, in project management, it’s a document that lists the steps needed to achieve a goal. That is, an action plan clarifies what resources you’ll need to reach that goal, makes a timeline for the tasks to get to that goal and determines what team members you’ll need to do it all.
An action plan is a document that documents the project. That is, it is a detailed list of the work that must be done to complete the goal of the project. It outlines what resources you’ll need to achieve that objective and what your timeline will be, including the tasks that are involved in getting from the start of the project to the finish. It’s the beginning of project planning.
Not only are you figuring out the tasks and timeline, but you’ll also determine who you’ll assemble for your team to work on those tasks.
Steps for an Action Plan
The benefits of an action plan are simple: you have now outlined what course and what resources are needed to reach your stated goal in the project. By having this all collected in a document, you can more successfully plan out how to complete your project.
People get overwhelmed by 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, follows these four basic steps:
1. Create a 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.
2. Use a Tool
Use a tool to keep you on task. ProjectManager has features that help you monitor and report on progress and performance. Get a high-level view of the project 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 the tool. 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 whenever they want. Sound good? Try our tool for free by taking this 30-day trial.
3. Have Your Team Work on One Platform
Onboard everyone into that tool so it works for the team. Make sure the team knows how to use it. Whether that’s a meeting on a process or a more structured training session, you want everyone to be able to use the tool before they start working on the project.
4. Set Up Alerts
Set up alerts that work to help you become more effective. Automate a lot of the busy work so you’re free to do the more hands-on management. Alerts are a great way to keep you abreast of the project’s progress without constantly pulling you away from your other duties.
The alerts can be used to notify changes in tasks and if any have been added, and there’s always a need to manage tasks better. They can also note the completion of a milestone, which is a major phase of the project. Finally, alerts can act as notes for feedback on tasks, documents and more.
Action Plan Tips
Once you got 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 include:
- Step 1: Focus on priorities and what is due now
- Step 2: Mark completed tasks complete
- Step 3: Assign someone to every task
- Step 4: Discuss pending or last tasks
Action Plan Example
Follow along with this example to see how action plans are typically laid out.
ProjectManager can help you build your action plan and then put it into action. Collect all your tasks on our list view, which does more than light-weight to-do list apps. Unlike them, we can prioritize, customize tags and show the percentage complete for each task. Our cloud-based 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 to know what tasks will take place, and when. You’ll also want to make assignments 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, 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.
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 life cycle of the project. Jennifer Bridges, PMP, offers more tips on action plans 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 avoid bottlenecks, and when things change, the schedule can be easily edited by simply dragging and dropping start and end dates.
Today, we’re talking about how to make an action plan. What I’ve learned in working with some teams is that the word “Gantt chart” or “project schedule” or “project plan,” can just seem too overwhelming.
But it’s hard to refute the term “action plan.” I mean, we all have to take action in order to get the project done. So, today I wanna talk about a few fundamentals and a few tips to build an action plan.
So, first of all, you wanna create a simple template to save time. So, what’s in the template? When you’re creating an action plan, you wanna know what is the action step? When is it due? And who is it assigned to?
We also wanna use a tool to keep you on task. By using a tool, a specific online tool that everyone’s using, then everyone has access to online and real-time data.
And number three is you wanna onboard everyone into the tool, so that it works for everyone and not just a few people. By having everyone committed to using the same tool, then you ensure that you have real-time data that everyone can access.
The fourth one is to set up alerts that work to help you become more efficient. Well, these are some things like tasks. By having alerts on when tasks are added or changed, it helps you become more efficient in what you’re doing, helps other people on the project be alerted to the changes. Also, when milestones are completed, that way, everyone knows when major things have occurred or completed on the project.
And then notes. Notes are great for collaborating on tasks or even documents, say, like your requirements documents or some other documents that are important for the project.
So here are a few tips.
Number one: focus on the priorities of what is due now. That way, people, or team members, don’t get overwhelmed by looking at all the things that are done, but they get focused on “Let’s get these completed now.”
Number two: mark completed tasks as completed. That way, you don’t have to keep looking at the same tasks. They’re already finished, done, completed. Get them out of the way, so you don’t keep looking at them.
Number three is assign someone to every task. You wanna be sure that you know who is accountable for every task. And that way, if you have questions, something’s not getting done, you know who to go to.
And number four is discuss pending or late tasks. You wanna be sure that you find out when there are barriers or reasons why some things aren’t getting done. Sometimes they need you and your help to get things done.
So, these are the fundamentals and a few tips to help you make your action plan. And if you need a tool that can help you manage and track your action plan, then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager.
(This post was updated February 2021)