What is an action plan?

The action plan is a business management tool that is based on the preparation of a list with all the steps necessary to achieve a certain objective. In addition to unfolding the task in stages, a good action plan also foresees who will carry out each activity, in what time frame and with how much budget.

The first step in establishing a company’s action plan is to clearly define the objective to be achieved. This objective can be, for example, the realization of a specific project, the realization of an event or another activity that is not part of the common day-to-day activities of the organization.

Developing a business action plan is essential for good time, resources, and team management. Action plans ensure that activities are carried out in an organized manner, allowing the defined objective to be achieved successfully, efficiently and effectively.

How to make an action plan: step by step

After defining the objective, the implementation of an action plan can be divided into three stages:

1. Planning

It is the phase in which the structure of the action plan is structured. You will identify what steps are necessary to reach the goal, in addition to preparing the schedule, division of tasks, and budget planning.

In the planning phase, brainstorming can be done   with the team that will be involved in the project to ensure that details are not overlooked. The planning phase ends with the completion of the spreadsheet that serves as the basis for the execution of the action plan, according to the adopted model (see some options below).

2. Execution and monitoring.

At this stage, the team responsible for carrying out the activity goes to work. The manager’s objective, in this case, is to ensure that the action plan is followed, demanding compliance with the established deadlines and objectives.

This step also requires good communication between all the participants in the project. The manager must be aware of problems that prevent the plan from being carried out as planned, in order to make the necessary decisions to avoid unforeseen events. The execution step ends when the project is complete.

3. Closing and analysis.

Often overlooked, the final phase of the action plan is very important to the growth of the organization. Analyze how the action plan behaved in its practical application.

The company manager and the team involved should take advantage of this moment to ask questions such as: Were the deadlines sufficient? Have they been fulfilled? Have some steps been overlooked to achieve the goal? This reflection allows the identification of planning errors, which should be corrected in future years.

4. Action plan templates

There is no single model action plan. The most famous method for designing an action plan is the 5W2H. However, it can be used together or replaced by other tools.

5. Simple spreadsheet

The most basic way to come up with an action plan is to put together a simple spreadsheet to monitor the project. The simplified model is not ideal for very complex projects, whose steps can be divided into substeps, but it is very useful and easy to understand.

The basic spreadsheet is a table that simply contains the tasks necessary to achieve the goal, with a deadline, the name of the person in charge, and a space to update your progress, plus space for observations.

Basic action plan template


This spreadsheet can be adapted according to the manager’s needs. For example, if a scheme that prioritizes communication between the team is essential to achieve the objective, it is possible to include in the table the  RACI matrix  , a team management tool. If meeting deadlines is very important, the date field can be broken down, highlighting whether the task is complete or overdue.

5W2H Action Plan Template

This is one of the most widely used action plan models. 5W2H is a management tool that displays activities by answering seven simple questions. When applied to an action plan, each of these questions sits at the top of a spreadsheet, allowing the strategy to reach the goal to be drawn simply and clearly.

This first line of the table must be filled in with the questions that, in their English version, correspond to the 5W and 2H that give the tool its name:

  • What? (What?)  : This column lists each of the steps to achieve the goal
  • Why? (Why?)  : Explain the importance of doing this task
  • Where? (Where?)  : Shows where the action will take place
  • When? (When?)  : Set the period and deadline for the task
  • WHO? (Who?)  : Indicates who is responsible for the execution
  • What? (How?)  : Details how the task is expected to be performed
  • How much? (How much?)  : Shows the available budget

For a better view of how 5W2H works, we set an example for the purpose of organizing a company’s end-of-year dinner. The table was populated with just a few of the tasks required to achieve that goal.

Organization of the end of the year dinner.

What?Why?Where?When?WHO?What?How much?
Send invitations to collaboratorsEveryone must reserve the dateto10/30JulianaInvitations will be sent by email, with a request for RSVP. Only the date will be saved , because the choice of location depends on the number of participants.to
Confirm the presence of the guests.You need to know the number of participants to reserve a table and predict the cost of the dinner.to10/31 to 11/15JulianaRSVPs must be collected by email. It is necessary to reinforce the invitation to those who have not confirmed to increase adherence and avoid last minute registrations.to
Make a restaurant reservationMany companies organize events at the end of the year, which reduces the availability of tables, and we must make sure we have a pleasant space.In the neighborhood where the headquarters is locatedUntil 11/20MarciaVisit a few places in the neighborhood to choose the one that best suits the number of guests and the available budget.usd $ 100 per person