How To Make A Work Plan In Just 4 Stepson 4 December 2019
For project planning, a work plan is an essential document. It ensures all team members are on the same page about everything related to a particular project, from what’s getting done to who’s doing what and when.
From goal setting to scheduling, work plans include all the important elements project management experts and business leaders recommend to execute a project successfully. (Tweet this!) For some organisations, it also features prominently in getting the go-ahead for a project to begin with. Software Portal CEO Jason David says, “A work plan is your sales pitch. You need buy-in before starting a project, and whether you’re trying to drum up support from an executive or a committee, the work plan is an important tool in the process.”
Below is all the information you need to get started creating a work plan: the definition and importance of a work plan, key aspects to consider as you plan your project, and how to make a work plan of your own.
What is a work plan?
A work plan is a roadmap that helps teams define and reach project objectives. The level of detail depends on the project’s size, complexity, and formality. Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris, notes that these details may include major project milestones, who is responsible for different areas of work, and a timeline for when tasks will be completed.
At Lemon.io, chief content strategist Ksenia Larina uses a weekly, sprint-like work plan and a quarterly work plan to keep her team on track throughout the year. The weekly work plan is much lighter since it revolves around short-term goals and brief tasks team members can complete within the week. In contrast, the quarterly version is a more detailed work plan: “We use it to address larger goals, like launching a new product or expanding our target audience.”
What is the importance of a work plan?
“Without a work plan, projects are a gamble,” says Ben Mirecki, founder of Car Pages. He explains that work plans set out a formal blueprint for the entire team, allowing all members to comprehend a specific goal and be aware of the specific steps needed to achieve that goal.
To better understand a work plan, Mirecki likes to use the analogy of building a table without instructions: “You might know what the table is supposed to look like, but without a clear plan or directions, setting it up is a guessing game. You’re liable to allocate or install the resources you’ve been given incorrectly, and wind up with nothing like what was originally envisioned.”
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How To Make A Work Plan: 4 Steps To Success
According to David, the key to creating a work plan is to keep it simple. “Chances are the people you're selling the plan to aren't as technical as you, and you don't want to lose them by bogging them down with things they don’t understand. And keep your data as real as possible to show you’ve thought things out.”
With simplicity in mind, consider the four steps below when creating your next work plan.
1. Define your goal.
First, establish what you want to accomplish. What is the business value these goals will deliver? Your plan is going to cost money and there needs to be a clear ROI. “You may not have exact numbers in your work plan, but I need to know the general idea,” David says.
As an example of a goal, Sherman notes you may want to revamp your inventory by the end of the year to prepare for a new product launch next year.
Mireki adds that the goal should be ambitious but not unrealistic. He notes that a common goal for more established businesses is to increase year-over-year profits by, say, 10%. “Communicate this goal to your department heads and discuss relevant, department-specific objectives that fit into the overall goal. For example, marketing may focus on decreasing the bounce rate on the company website.”
David also stresses the importance of strategy: “What is the actionable part of this plan? What steps are going to be taken to meet the goals you defined?”
2. Identify the work.
The next step is describing the work it will take to reach your goal. David Altemir, president of Altemir Consulting, says this is where a work breakdown structure (WBS) comes in. “You’ll need to create the WBS, which is an indented outline of the work to be performed. It should organise the entire project as a collection of sub-projects that each contain a set of tasks.”
Breaking down the work into manageable chunks makes it easier for everyone on the team (and management) to understand, discuss, and track once the project starts.
David cautions to consider risks while planning the work: "Things will come up and get in your way. They always do. So it’s important to show you've identified known risks and have taken steps to mitigate them.”
3. Create a timeline and budget.
You can then use the WBS to create a baseline work schedule that shows when each task must be started and finished. Sherman recommends adding key milestones to this timeline. Recalling his inventory revamp goal, he says you could add milestones for identifying problem areas with current inventory and performing a full inventory count, along with appropriate dates. “Whatever milestones you add, they will be important for keeping your team on track, so make them specific. In addition, give everyone enough time to complete the milestones successfully, but have a concrete deadline.”
Once the project begins, you should update the schedule to show when tasks actually start and finish. Scheduling software allows you to easily maintain two independent sets of schedule dates:
- The original planned start and finish dates frozen in place at the beginning of the project (i.e., the baseline schedule)
- A regularly updated set of actual start and finish dates
Further, the timeline and budget go hand in hand because, with a completed schedule, you can then assign estimated costs to each task to create a final project cost. The scheduling software should be able to dynamically calculate estimated completion dates as the project progresses. “A similar approach should be taken with the budget to update it with incurred costs so that actuals can be compared to the original amounts,” explains Altemir.
David says to remember the management perspective when creating the timeline: “How long before project goals start paying off?”
4. Assign personnel.
“Lastly, you need to decide who is going to be a part of the project,” says Sherman. Identify available personnel and who may need to be pulled from other projects. Be sure to identify whether certain people must be fully dedicated to the project or whether their time can be shared.
Once you have the right people identified, assign them clear roles on the team and specific tasks from the WBS. “Avoid people doing double work or missing key elements of the project,” explains Sherman.
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