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February 11, 2021

Free Action Plan Template in Excel

By Brian McHale

So you’ve been tasked with managing a project at work? I’ve got just the thing.

Every good story starts with an idea, and every good project manager starts with an action plan.

Whether you work in HR, marketing, sales, or IT, any good project starts with a plan.

And you’ve come to the right place.

In this blog post, we’re going to be covering everything you need to know to get your project management journey off to a flying start.

We’ll be covering:

  • What is an action plan?
  • What are the benefits of an action plan?
  • Your action plan step by step

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started.

 

What is an action plan?

In its most basic form, an action plan is what is says on the tin.

Simply put, an action plan is a collection of actions that, when taken, should lead to a project’s aims being realized.

But how?

Of course, a list of over generalizations is not going bring about success.

But that is not what an action plan is.

An action plan is more than this.

It is a detailed, easy-to-comprehend, strategic course of action that outlines actionable steps that actually achieve goals.

In other words, an action plan is a highly-detail oriented step-by-step strategy for success.

Sounds great right? But what are the component parts of an effective action plan?

The best action plans include:

  • Clear, well-defined, goals & objectives
  • Tasks to be completed in order to reach said goals
  • Division of labor (who will do what, when, and where)
  • Deadlines for task completion and project milestones
  • Resources and tools needed to complete the tasks
  • Progress markers to ensure the plan is progressing.

Think of it like this.

Your action plan will be your go-to reference document throughout a project.

It will tell you and your team what resources are needed, what tasks need completing, and outline a timeline for all of these activities with clear deadlines.

The idea is to make things as clear as humanly possible in order to ensure the efficient, streamlined running of an entire project.

With a good action plan template at the ready, your team will always know what to do, and you’ll be better prepared to monitor their progress.

That’s an A + for productivity.

In summary, an action plan is a document that outlines a project in detail.

It is an essential part of the strategic planning process and helps with project focus, teamwork planning, and efficiency.

The plan is made up of action items (tasks that need completing to meet targets).

Before your action plan can get the all-clear, most organizations will require the project manager (you) to pitch your plan of action to the necessary stakeholders.

Once any adjustments are made, you’re ready to go.

But remember, your action plan is organic.

It’s absolutely expected that it will change and morph with new developments and changes.

So go with the wind.

Free Action Plan Template in Excel

Click to download our Free Action Plan Template in Excel to begin simplifying your project management.

What are the benefits of an action plan?

Let’s talk about the benefits.

And there are oh-so-many.

Action planning isn’t just a buzz word.

It’s seriously worth the effort.

Not only does a robust action plan boost traffic, but it is more than capable of increasing sales and business growth at the same time.

But why is this, exactly?

 

Resilience

Your action plan provides resilience against obstacles.

Project managers should always expect the unexpected and be ready to meet it head-on.

An effective action plan will keep you and your team motivated, focussed, and productive throughout the highs and lows.

 

Direction

Your action plan provides a sense of direction.

Especially when it comes to complex, multi-faceted, projects, an action plan is absolutely essential for staying on track.

You’ll have all your goals written down and organized into periodic, timetabled tasks.

Great for keeping motivation high, procrastination low, and deviation down.

 

Framework

The main purpose, and overarching benefit, of action planning, is the secure, dependable framework it provides.

Humans are not capable (even those that claim to be) of maintaining 100% focus, 100% of the time.

Your action plan provides a framework for efficient, effective, targeting thinking and planning and ensures the logical steps are always taken.

 

Management

Finally, for you, the project manager, the action plan is a lifesaver.

Planning and managing a large-scale project for a large team without support is hard.

Your action plan will be your rock.

Think of it as the project hub.

This is where you go when you need to distribute workloads amongst your team, set deadlines, and prioritize tasks.

 

Your action plan step by step

We’ve really driven home how much we love action plans.

So let’s cut to the chase and talk about how you can start creating your own with some action plan examples.

An action plan need not be a super difficult task.

However, it is important to dedicate time and focus to it.

This is not just about brainstorming general ideas on a whiteboard.

An action plan needs to be strategic, specific, and sufficient.

It’s a bit like baking a cake.

Your overall objective might be a vanilla cheesecake, but in order to get there, you’ll need a list of ingredients, a method of actionable steps, and a timeline.

Likewise, if you’re making a triple layer rainbow cake with three types of icing and a decorative sugar monument to your aunt Tilda, then your recipe is probably going to have a few more steps.

Just like baking, industry projects range from the simple (in which case your action plan will be fairly short) to the extremely complex.

Desserts aside, let’s talk about how to write an action plan. What are some of the steps you can take to ace your very own action plan.

Writing marketing plan

 

1. Goals

A great action plan needs realistic professional goals to garner success.

Goals define where you want to be at the end of the project.

Is there a problem that needs solving?

Are their metrics that need meeting?

Are there sales quotas that need smashing?

If you’re not quite sure where to start, then think SMART.

  • S – specific
  • M – measurable
  • A – attainable
  • R – relevant
  • T – time-bound

Identify goals that are specific and easily measured.

This will help you track your progress.

Identify goals that are attainable and relevant.

This will make the most of your current resources and support your existing goals.

Finally, make sure that your goals are times.

Setting clear deadlines for task completion will aid progress.

For example, your goal might be to increase shareholder value.

That’s a great goal, but it needs something extra. How about this?

Increase shareholder value by 5% by January 2022.

This is much better because it is:

  • Specific ✔
  • Measurable ✔
  • Attainable ✔
  • Relevant to the original goal ✔
  • Time-bound ✔

Free Action Plan Template in Excel

Click to download our Free Action Plan Template in Excel to begin simplifying your project management.

2. Resources

Your recipe needs ingredients and your project needs resources.

First things first.

Make sure that you have everything you need for all tasks to be completed optimally, and on time.

If you don’t have all the necessary resources, you may have to buy them.

Remember to factor this into your overall budget in your marketing plan.

For example, complex projects might require a tool or software to streamline the process from start to finish.

That could be a template or a spreadsheet, but for optimum efficiency a designated project management software is preferable.

There are many software options on the market today.

Pick one that aligns with your project goals, budget, and specific needs.

Software is fantastic for project managers.

Everything you need to know about a project is accessible from one platform.

That’s great for efficiency, focus, and cross-referencing.

Plus, if your team already works using office 365, picking a software option that can be fully integrated with your existing tools makes the project management process even more streamlined.

 

3. Method

Next, we need a clear method.

This should include the strategies and steps that need to be completed in order to achieve your project goals.

Each task needs to be clearly defined and manageable.

Try to avoid larger, complex tasks, but breaking them down into their component parts.

This will keep things moving and improve team motivation (after all, who doesn’t love ticking things off their to-do list?)

Let’s imagine that you’re managing a marketing project.

The ultimate goal is to improve the user experience on your company’s new price-comparison app.

Here are some actionable tasks that could be included in your action plan.

 

4. Deadlines

It’s time to think about deadlines.

That means timelines, milestones, and some strategic prioritization.

When making your own action plan, try to rank tasks in terms of importance.

What needs to be done right away and what can wait a bit?

Create a timeline that avoids any blockages.

For example, you don’t want one uncompleted task to halt the progress of the entire project.

Once you’ve got your list of prioritized tasks, set some key team milestones.

These will become your team’s motivational reminders and foster a sense of ongoing progress and achievement.

 

5. Evaluation

Finally, it’s important to factor in time for project evaluation.

Try to include evaluatory periods throughout the entirety of the project (not just one final evaluation at the end), as this will keep everyone focussed and flag up any roadblocks along the way.

During the project, ask questions like:

  • Are we on track to meeting this goal?
  • Have we met our weekly targets?
  • We all tasks met by the specified deadlines? If no, then…
  • Are our deadlines unrealistic – what could we change?

When the project comes to an end, ask questions such as:

  • Did we keep to the original timeline?
  • Did we achieve quality outcomes?
  • What were the key successes/failures?
  • Were our stakeholders satisfied with the results?
  • Did we finish within budget?

 

Get that plan into action

So there we have it.

If you’ve been tasked with a new project recently, make sure your action plan is on hand and at the ready.

You’ll thank yourself for it later.

A carefully, strategically planned action plan is the project manager’s secret weapon.

The essential ingredient for a streamlined, timely, goal-achieving project.

To get your own plan into action download our free action plan template in Excel.

You can also refer to our free project template page here.

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