Make and use action plans with SMART action points


This step is highly important: SMART action points are used for all the activities that need to be done for implementing the quality management system.

Implementing a quality management system is a process in which a lot needs to been done by many different people. If all the tasks that need to be fulfilled are not managed well, the laboratory will end up with a huge number of tasks and lose oversight.


An efficient way of keeping track of tasks, and controlling if they are done in time, is translating these tasks into “SMART Action Points”. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time-bound. In this method the action point consists of one sentence explaining what needs to be done by who at which time. Besides, the SMART model also ensures that no unachievable action points are made.


  • Specific: Describe exactly the action that needs to be done
  • Measurable: Formulate the action in a way that it can be checked (measured) whether it has been carried out
  • Agreed: Mention the person(s) who will carry out the action
  • Realistic: Formulate a realistic action. An action which is not realistic will never be carried out
  • Time-bound: Deadline of the action

When a certain activity leads to multiple action points, these action points are all gathered into an "Action Plan". An example is the action plan for upgrading of facilities and safety that needs to be done later in phase 1. In this assessment the safety of the laboratory is assessed using a checklist. The assessment may yield a lot of points for improvement. Every point for improvement needs to be resolved before the laboratory can apply for accreditation. Therefore, every point for improvement will need to be translated in one or more action points. All the action points of the biosafety assessment will be combined into an Action Plan titled "Action Plan for Improving Laboratory Biosafety".

An example of a SMART action point: Find the most suitable floor material for use in the laboratory (resistant to water, easy cleanable) | Name of staff member that has to do this | 30 March 2013

The example action point is specific (explains what should be done) and measurable (the report of the staff member on the most ideal laboratory floor type and the rationale behind this choice). It is also agreed upon (the person that has to carry out the action point is specified) and time-bound (the deadline is 30 March 2013). It is also realistic: the action point can be completed without much trouble.

See the document "SMART Action Planning" in the right-hand column for more in-depth information on the SMART model.

How & who

Making SMART action points:

Applicable to all staff members that have to assign tasks to other staff members:

  1. Determine for every task that needs to be done who should do it, when it should be done, and formulate the action point such that you can "measure" (or check) at the deadline whether the action point really has been completed.
  2. Formulate specifically what should be done and take care not to make the action point too extensive.
  3. If an action point is too extensive, split it into multiple action points. Hence, don't say "replace the floors in the laboratory" but divide the process of replacing floors into multiple steps with step 1: "find the most suitable floor material for the laboratory", step 2: "calculate the costs of replacing floors in the laboratory", etc.
  4. Discuss in meetings the progress of implementing action points.

Making Action Plans:

Applicable to all staff members that have to make SMART action plans:

For making action plans you can use the Template of an Action Plan provided in the right-hand column.

  1. Make the action plan
  2. Give the action plan to the Quality Focal Point.

Quality Focal Point:

  1. Include all the action points of the action plan in the minutes of the weekly staff meetings (see next activity). This enables monitoring of timely implementation of all action points: the status of their implementation is discussed every week.
  2. Take a new folder and name this "Action Plans".
  3. Put two tabs in the folder and name them "Open action plans" and "Completed action plans".
  4. Put all the action plans in the folder.
  5. The Laboratory Manager must check every month which action points have been completed, which are still open and which need follow-up. When all the action points of one action plan have been completed the manager must sign the action plan and move it to the tab "Completed action plans".

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This activity belongs to the QSE Organization
ISO15189:2007: 4.2.1 4.11.1
ISO15189:2012: 4.12