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How to Develop an Effective Action Plan?

When you’ve finished all the work of understanding your problem and you think you know what to do. Your next step is to put together an action plan that will serve as the roadmap to your success, and communicate or teach your plan to everyone else involved. On the subject of teaching, the poet Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “I keep six honest serving-men. They taught me all I knew. Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.” For every item annual action plan, you should have an answer for each of Kipling’s servants who, let’s be clear, is not inherently male. Here’s what that might look like.

About This Course

Communicate your team and company goals with an action plan. Use these tips to develop a clear and effective action plan.

How to Develop an Effective Action Plan?

Your Action Plan

Your Action Plan should answer the fundamental questions, also known as the 5W1H questions, about your undertaking, as follows:

Your Action Plan should answer the fundamental questions

A plan with multiple action items should have one row for each item, and then any elaboration necessary should come after all the action items have been specified.

The “Status” column is optional and will probably be “not started,” or “0%” or something similar at the beginning of your plan. However, including it makes it easy for you to reuse your initial plan as a template for future progress updates.

As a whole, the action plan serves as communication to your team and company on how your actions will address the problem you’re facing.

Additionally, a comprehensive plan will guide how you’ll monitor progress along the way, and evaluate your effectiveness at the end.


Start by making the reason you’re undertaking the action item you’re describing very clear. Most of the time, you’ll be filling this in with a specific root cause of the problem that you’ve crafted the action item to address.


This is the specific action that you are proposing stated plainly and concisely, to address your problem.
Since it’s an action, start it with a verb, like “review,” “replace,” or “offer.”


These are the steps, subtasks, or methods you’ll be using to accomplish the action you described. The how often includes the medium you’ll be using, such as “in person,” “online,” “written document,” or “video.”


This is the specific person or people accountable for completing the action. Assign people on your team by pairing their knowledge and skills with the demands of the task. Make sure you have enthusiastic agreement from anyone you list before you make the plan final and public.


This is the location (physical, virtual, or metaphorical, like a department) where the “what” and “how” will take place.


This is the deadline for the completion of the action item. This informs the milestones you’ll need to reach and how you’ll check your progress.

Example Action Plan

The following action plan was developed to decrease the average length of calls to the customer support team at Teletech.

Example Action Plan

Notice how the “Why” is slightly different for each item, because each item is tailored to address a different cause for the problem that the manager identified.

Customer service calls at Teletech have been taking longer than the industry benchmark average of 17 minutes to resolve. Here is our plan to reduce call times by treating the underlying causes of long calls.


Question 1

Gianna works at a travel agency and gives you the following information about an action item for her plan: “The company’s going to rebrand with more pictures of family and kid-friendly attractions because we think we’re losing business to competitors that seem more family-friendly. It’s mostly an online initiative but we’ll have pamphlets in the new style too. The change should be rolled out by the end of the month.” Which question does Gianna still need to answer more clearly to put this in her plan?

A. How
B. When
C. Why
D. Who

Correct Answer:
D. Who


The full version of your action plan may be formatted differently and contain additional information, but answering the 6 basic questions in your plan ensures that you’ll be able to execute it effectively and keep your team aligned.


Practice answering Who, What, Where, When, Why and How for a recent project you completed. Is it easy to see how these questions connect the plan to larger company objectives and the daily tasks?

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