What is an action plan?
Table of Contents
What is an action plan and how to write one
It’s exciting to start a project but also a little overwhelming. How do you get from the big idea to an actual result?
One way to conquer a project is by breaking it down into smaller, manageable actions and tracking how you work through those tasks. Action plans can help you plan and monitor these work items.
An action plan is a powerful strategic planning tool for project management that helps you break down a goal into actionable tasks. It provides a clear list of tasks, priorities, the person responsible, and required resources. It also highlights potential obstacles and how to overcome them.
Unlike other management tools, such as Gantt charts, which provide a broader view of the project timeline, an action plan focuses on shorter-term or recurring tasks, known as action items.
These action plan steps are the building blocks of the larger project.
One of the main benefits of an action plan is that it turns a big idea into concrete, actionable steps. By describing these steps in simple terms, an action plan enables any team member to follow the plan successfully. Moreover, as a living document, an action plan template can be updated throughout the project lifecycle to reflect changes in circumstances or progress made.
What is the purpose of an action plan?
An action plan serves as a roadmap to guide you and your team toward achieving a common goal. It enables you to focus on each step of the process, track progress, and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Like a recipe, an action plan details who will be responsible for each task, when and where it needs to happen, and why it's important to the project's success. By clarifying these details, an action plan aligns everyone involved in the project and ensures they are working toward the same goal.
Some say action plans are best suited for projects with less stringent deadlines. The truth is that they can be helpful in any project, regardless of the timeline.
By providing orientation and structure, an action plan can help you:
Stay organized and focused
Help you track progress
Stop you from overlooking essential details
Help you make adjustments when circumstances change
Use action plans to achieve project success and boost process improvement
Effective project management is crucial for ensuring the success of any project, regardless of its size or complexity. One way to achieve project success is by combining action plans with different project management tools and methodologies.
Below, we will explore how action plans can work together with various project management tools and methodologies to achieve project success and boost process improvement.
Agile is an iterative approach to project management that breaks down work into smaller, manageable chunks called sprints. Each sprint typically lasts two to four weeks and involves a cross-functional team working together to complete tasks. At the end of each sprint, the team delivers a working product increment that meets the customer's requirements.
To effectively manage sprints, teams must create a sprint backlog detailing the tasks required to complete each sprint. This stage is where action plans come in.
By detailing the tasks required for each sprint backlog item, teams can ensure the timely completion of each sprint and make adjustments as needed.
For example, suppose a software development team is working on a project that involves developing a new feature for their software product. The team can create an action plan that outlines the tasks required for each sprint backlog item. This can include tasks such as designing the user interface, developing the backend functionality, and conducting user testing.
Kanban boards are a visual project management tool using columns and cards to represent work items. The board is typically divided into columns such as "To Do," "In Progress," and "Done." Cards are then placed on the board representing individual tasks or work items.
Using an action plan with a Kanban board can help you create a trackable visual checklist of tasks. As you move cards across the board, you can update your action plan to reflect your progress. This can help you identify bottlenecks, prioritize tasks, and ensure everything moves forward as planned.
For example, imagine you're managing a marketing campaign for a new product launch. You could create a Kanban board with columns for “Research,” “Copywriting,” “Design,” and “Publishing.” Then, you could make an action plan with a detailed checklist of tasks for each column. As you move cards across the board, you can update your action plan to reflect your progress and ensure that everything is on track for a successful launch.
Kaizen events are team-based improvement activities that aim to identify and eliminate waste in a process. They can be used to improve quality, reduce lead time, and enhance safety, among other things. By involving team members in the process and encouraging them to share their ideas and insights, Kaizen events can lead to significant improvements in a short period of time.
To ensure that the improvements identified during a Kaizen event are implemented successfully, it is important to use an action plan. The action plan should detail the specific tasks required to implement each improvement, who is responsible for each task, and the deadline for completion. This will help keep the team focused and ensure progress toward achieving the desired improvements.
For example, imagine that a team holds a Kaizen event to improve the efficiency of a manufacturing process. One of the improvements identified is to implement a new tool that will automate a certain task. The team creates an action plan that outlines the steps required to purchase, install, and test the new tool. The action plan also assigns specific tasks to team members and sets deadlines for completion. Using the action plan to track progress, the team can successfully implement the new tool and achieve the desired improvement.
DMAIC Six Sigma
DMAIC Six Sigma is a structured approach to process improvement that involves five phases: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.
phase involves identifying the problem, project goals, and customer requirements. The Measure phase focuses on data collection and analysis to understand the current state of the process.
The Analyze phase aims to identify the root cause(s) of the problem and develop potential solutions.
The Improve phase involves testing and implementing the chosen solution(s), and the Control phase aims to sustain the improvements and ensure long-term success.
To effectively implement DMAIC, a detailed action plan can be created to monitor progress during the Improvement phase. This can include specific tasks, timelines, and responsible team members to ensure the project stays on track and meets its goals.
SIPOC diagrams offer a high-level view of a process that helps you identify the key components and their interactions. The acronym stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Customers.
By mapping out a process using a SIPOC diagram, you can get a better understanding of how it works, who is involved, and what outcomes it produces. This can be a useful tool for identifying areas for improvement and streamlining the process.
Once you have identified the areas for improvement, it's time to create an action plan to implement the necessary changes. The action plan should detail the steps required to achieve the desired outcome and provide a timeline.
For example, let's say you have identified a bottleneck in your production process using a SIPOC diagram. You can create an action plan to address this issue by specifying the actions needed to resolve the bottleneck and assigning responsibilities for each action. You can then track the plan's progress and adjust it to ensure its success.
How to write an action plan
When writing an action plan, remember to involve the team in the writing process and prioritize collaboration, as this can help motivate team members and hold them more accountable.
Whether you’re starting from scratch for filling out an action plan template, here are some other key steps to consider:
One of the first steps is to define your end goal, making sure that it is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
Next, break down tasks into smaller, manageable pieces, and set deadlines to ensure that you stay on track.
Set milestones that lead to the main goal, as they provide a focus for team members and help ensure that you're progressing toward the ultimate objective.
Identify and allocate necessary resources, including human resources and materials, to ensure the plan can be successfully implemented.
List potential obstacles and plan contingencies to address any issues that may arise during the implementation process.
Track progress and update the plan regularly using online tools.
By following these steps, you can create a well-organized, easy-to-read action plan that can be easily updated and accessible to everyone involved.
Here’s an example of an action plan:
Ensure with each update that the website uses the correct stylesheet characters for the localized versions and doesn’t appear garbled.
Task: For new pages, copy the ‘Standard Web Page Template.’
Date: When creating pages
Task: Ensure that each new web page includes a link to CSS2.
Date: One week before release.
Owner: Upload specialist
Task: Confirm that CSS2 is uploaded to the release server.
Date: One week before release.
Owner: Upload specialist
Best practices for writing an action plan
As you work through the plan, ensure that you keep these best practices in mind:
Make sure that your action plan is easy to understand and follow. Avoid using technical jargon or complex language that could confuse team members or stakeholders.
Engage relevant stakeholders early on in the process to ensure that everyone is on the same page and has a shared understanding of the goals, objectives, and desired outcomes of the action plan.
Focus on the most critical action items first and ensure they are completed on time and within budget. Tip: Use the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) to identify the 20% of action items that will deliver 80% of the impact.
Recognize that action plans are not set in stone and may need to be adjusted as circumstances change. Build in some flexibility to accommodate unexpected challenges or new information during the implementation process.
Accelerate your action plans with Miro
You can create an action plan that meets your unique needs using Miro. Filling out an action plan template provides guidance as you document your plan, allowing you to easily enter notes, add graphs and charts, and track progress.
Miro makes it easy to jumpstart your planning process with trackable lists that can be stored in a central location, allowing team members and other stakeholders to access and update the plan efficiently. Using Miro can help streamline your action plan process and improve collaboration, ensuring your team stays on track and achieves its goals.
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