The Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Writing Action Plans

action-plan-beginner-guide

If you need a sample action plan to get your business in shape, then use the following guidelines to design your next MS Word template. An Action Plan is a series of steps that helps you achieve your goals in measurable ways. The key is to tie your goals to targets you can reach – and measure your success at each step! Here’s how to do it.

10 Step Action Plan

Use these ten steps to create your next action plan.

  1. Identify Major Goals – Write a one page document that identifies what you want to accomplish. Break out the main objectives, budget, timelines and then drill down into the key assumptions, risks and issues that may arise and the contingencies to address these. To make your action plan more realistic, identify the issues you are likely to encounter as otherwise it may prove impractical to implement.
  2. Create Tasks – The next step is to assign tasks to different team members. Depending on your setup, assign tasks by name or by role. For example, if you work in a large software company, and the turnover is high, then enter the role of the person rather than the title. Otherwise, you will need to revise the MS Word docs every time a person comes or goes!
  3. Assign Tasks Based on Skills – Delegate tasks to team members who can perform these skills. Otherwise the person you assigned it to may not prove equal to the task, thereby undermining the project’s success.
  4. Lists Action Steps – Each task should cover one specific and measurable activity. Don’t merge two tasks into one line in the worksheet. Keep tasks as unique as possible as this helps trace the root cause should an issue arise.
  5. Update Status – In your MS Excel file, create a column and enter in the Status of the task. Example fields may be Assigned, Completed, and Under Review. Also if you have a list of tasks that need to be performed in order, then create a master To Do spreadsheet and rank them in sequential order.
  6. Prioritize Tasks – As some action steps are more important that others, give these a higher ranking in the Excel file. This helps you identify the key tasks that need to be performed first, then second and so on. It also helps you see at a glance where/who needs to be chased up if needs be. Delete tasks once completed or update their status.
  7. Feedback – Communicate with all team members during the writing, reviewing and assessment phases. Include as much feedback as possible as update the documents to reflect these changes. Use Track Changes in MS Word to track all the changes to the document and when revising the template.
  8. Execute – Once you have finished building the Action Plan Template, send it to all team members. If necessary, post it on the Intranet. Track all the tasks in the MS Word and Excel templates and share the status updates in the Progress Reports.
  9. Assess – Make sure all team members perform their tasks as per the deadlines. If these dates prove to be difficult to achieve, then revise the dates after consulting the other project stakeholders. When you see an error, capture it immediately, update the document template. Destroy previous versions.
  10. Monitor Results – Finally, check to see how successful the action plan was implemented. It’s naive to think that the first release will be perfect. Expect issues to arise and make the adjustments as necessary. Use an Excel file to track your results and keep this for future projects. Also, thank everyone for their involvement.

Conclusion

Action Plans work if they are achievable, results-orientated, and measurable. Where most Action Plans fail is when the team cannot perform the tasks within the timeframes or the results are not measured and reconfigured accordingly.

Next week, we will look at this and show you how to create Action Plans that resolve these issues by closing the gap between abstract ideas and concrete results.

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