The basis of an action plan is an outline of necessary steps to complete a project. Action plans can be as simple as one person creating a thorough “to do” list, or as complex as an organization-wide meeting to develop a strategy and assign tasks to complete a large corporate goal. Regardless of where your business falls in this line-up, an action plan can help you and your employees stay on track.
What is an Action Plan and Why do I Need One?
Action plans are not technically part of business plans, which span years – instead, action plans may at most span months, but only involve a single project. Successfully completing the project would, of course, help your business in the long run and fit into the objectives of your overall business plan, but the minutiae of action plans do not need to be added to the business plan.
Action plans show employees and shareholders or donors that you are serious about meeting your goals and obligations – and, they help you keep details about those goals and obligations at the forefront of your mind. They can be an efficient way to steer everyone back on track, so that you do not lose time or resources on projects that don’t make sense for your company. They also determine who is responsible for what part of the project, so you can hold them accountable when they do not meet their deadlines or perform their assigned tasks.Longer-term action plans should be created within the first 6 months to 1 year after your business is founded. This action plan will keep you and any employees you have focused on the mission, vision, goals, and objectives of your business or organization, and highlight intended strategies to accomplish your mission and goals.
If your business has enough employees to have a project manager, this person will take on the development of action plans to help keep tasks moving. However, if you do not have an official project manager, that’s okay! You can use our action plan template to get yourself and your employees organized and focused.
Benefits and Detriments to Action Plans
Action plans allow you or your project managers to monitor progress on the project’s details. As employees complete assignments, you can check that off the list and assign the next step. If an employee fails to meet a deadline, then you not only have an outline to hold them accountable, but you can use that experience as information on how difficult the project is to complete, and whether or not other tasks involved might need more time. You can update the action plan as you go, to keep everyone focused and inform everyone about their success.
Problems with your action plan can arise if you use vague wording or create deadlines that are hard to meet. Sometimes employees fail at project deadlines because they are lazy or do not put in the time or effort necessary, but sometimes, failing to meet a deadline comes because the employee worked hard but simply did not have the time or resources available to help them complete the task. It is important that your action plan is complete, clear, and current – that way, everyone involved can keep up with their assigned tasks.
Elements of an Action Plan:
Your action plan should include at its base:
1. What the overall action or goal is, and detailed steps to accomplish the goal
2. Who is responsible for each step (if the action plan is not for you alone)
3. When to start and complete steps in the project
4. Estimated necessary resources: time, money, etc
5. When and how to communicate completion of details, failure to meet deadlines, and general updates on the project’s key points
Our free action plan template can help you get started!