In project management, every activity counts; big or small. But then, how do you ensure that no tasks are left behind, especially on larger projects? Large projects involve collaboration between multiple parties and synchrony between activities that often have a dependency relationship.
Without an action plan, it can be difficult to track everything that is being done and ensure that nothing gets in the way of project development. An action plan is not an exclusive project management tool, but it can be very useful for it.
What is an Action Plan and What are the Benefits of Using One?
An action plan is a tool that maps all activities and the order in which they must take place in order for an objective to be met. The action plan identifies those responsible for each task, the time when they should be carried out, and how they should be carried out.
In project management, the objective of the action plan can be the completion of the project — here, the action plan will cover the entire length of the project — or the completion of each stage, requiring the elaboration of an action plan for each stage.
The benefits of using an action plan in the development of a project are many. One of the main ones is the identification of all the resources that will be needed to complete a project so that there are no surprises along the way of what is required to efficiently complete it.
The action plan also gives management a better idea of the time that will be spent for the project to be completed, since it allows breaking the actions necessary for this into smaller steps that are easier to be measured.
In addition, the action plan facilitates the manager’s work, since, based on the plan, it is possible to better allocate the available resources, ensuring that each activity is assigned to the most appropriate professional(s).
See also our article on project prioritization and learn how to select without making a mistake.
How to Put Together an Action Plan for Projects in 7 Steps
Creating an action plan is easier than you might think! However, you need to pay attention to some details first. An effective action plan should contain:
- The goal you want to achieve at the end
- The steps that you need to take to reach this goal
- The definition of the people responsible for each task
- The deadlines and milestones for the plan
- Other resources that might be needed to complete the tasks
- Measures to assess progress
See below for a step-by-step breakdown on how to elaborate on each one of these components.
1. Define Your Goal
As we said, your goal may be the completion of the project. Thus, the objective of the action plan will be the same as the final objective of the project itself. However, when thinking about long and complex projects, this may not be the best approach. You can break your project down into smaller steps and develop them separately.
These parts do not necessarily have to be the same as the stages of the project. The important thing is the definition of goals that make measuring the evolution of progress towards the achievement of objectives more tangible.
An interesting technique to be used for goal setting is known as SMART, an acronym, which defines what a goal should be:
- Specific: Well defined and clear
- Measurable: You must be able to apply indicators to measure it
- Attainable: It must be a realistic goal
- Relevant: It must be aligned with the project as a whole
- Time-based: It must have an end date
2. List the Tasks to be Performed
The objective is now clear. But what exactly do you need to do to achieve it? In this step, you must identify all the actions that will be necessary for the goal defined in the previous step to be achieved. Create a table with three columns, as follows:
ACTION | RESPONSIBLE | DEADLINE
Make sure that there are no complex tasks taking up a row. If so, divide large or complex tasks into smaller activities. Another important tip is to involve the whole team in this process so that the responsibilities are defined jointly and so that everyone knows their respective roles well in the pursuit of the goal.
3. Prioritize Tasks and Deadlines
Every task has different urgencies. Some may be more urgent than others, while some may depend on the completion of another task to be started. All of this must be defined in this step so that a schedule is put together.
Whenever possible, consult people with experience in the type of activity to be performed and also those responsible for the execution of each task so that realistic deadlines are set.
4. Define Milestones
Always think about defining milestones in your action plan, as they facilitate communication about the progress of activities.
In addition, setting milestones in action plans helps to keep the team motivated, as it gives them intermediate goals to achieve. In other words, when the milestones are reached, the progress of the project becomes more tangible, giving the team more courage to proceed.
5. Identify the Necessary Resources
In addition to human resources, other resources may be needed to complete an action plan. This can be materials, tools, outsourced services, travel, accommodation, software, even the necessary hardware. Your budget should also be included as a resource. After all, without money for investment, an action plan may not progress much.
With the resources identified, it will be possible to ensure that everyone has what they need at hand to carry out their activities.
6. Make the Plan Easy to View
You can create a schedule in MS Project, use your own tool or even put your plan on a digital whiteboard. The important thing is that everyone on the team can visualize the action plan in an easy, clear, and simple way. This document must be easy to access and must be editable as plans often change or need to be adjusted.
7. Monitor, Evaluate, and Update
One of the reasons why the action plan should be editable is that you need to keep a close eye on what is being done, what has already been completed, and still needs to be done. This will give you a clear view of the progress of the plan as a whole, allowing the necessary adjustments to be made so that the deadline is met.
The main goal of an action plan is to guide you so your project can be successful. It will help you stay focused and motivated while telling you what steps should be taken so you can get where you wanted.
Did you enjoy learning about the action plan? Get to know what an ideas program is and see how it can benefit your management!