“Can you tell me what you’re working on?” What happened to our budget, anyway? “How come you’re always late?”
Does this ring a bell? The majority of the time, inadequate planning is to blame for your project management woes.
The state of your projects, on the other hand, does not have to be a wild guess if you keep to a work plan. This is especially true if you’re juggling a number of long-term initiatives with a variety of stakeholders.
However, inadequate planning remains one of the biggest difficulties facing today’s PMs.
Sure, you’ll need a plan to stay on schedule and on budget. But how can you tell if your project planning is up to par?
We’ll show you how to build and implement a work plan that truly works in this guide.
What exactly is a work plan?
A work plan is a high-level document that outlines a project’s goals, objectives, and task priorities from beginning to end.
The following are the essential components of any work plan:
- Goal(s): Your project’s overarching, big-picture mission.
- Objectives: The outcomes you want to achieve as a result of your goals are referred to as objectives.
- Tactics: Tactics are the actions or tools you’ll use to achieve your goals.
- KPIs: Key performance indicators (KPIs) are measurements and data points that are used to assess the effectiveness of your actions.
- Roles: The colleagues and stakeholders who are in charge of project duties are referred to as roles.
- Timeline: To keep everything on track, create a timeline with dates, deadlines, and project milestones.
Your work plan is your go-to project blueprint, requiring permission from stakeholders and being cited by participants throughout.
Your work plan is essential not just for any paperwork, but also for addressing the questions “what,” “why,” “when,” and “how” of any project before it begins.
But what distinguishes a work plan from others?
That’s an excellent question!
It’s a no-brainer to plan a project. So, what distinguishes a project plan from, for example, a work breakdown structure? To begin, consider the following:
- Work plans aren’t usually the duty of a single individual.
- A work plan’s details are more high-level than granular.
- Work plans are a document that everyone participating in the project can refer to.
Also, keep in mind that not every project necessitates a formal work plan, depending on its size and scope. One should be used for larger, more complicated projects with several stakeholders, activities, or milestones.
On the other hand, if a project just has one stakeholder and a few non-differentiating activities, examine if a detailed work plan is required. Here are several indicators that you need a work plan:
1. You’re working on a lengthy project (think: multiple months)
The bigger the number of steps in a project, the more a roadmap is required. Planning is essential for saving time and avoiding missed deadlines.
2. You’re collaborating with a diverse group of people, departments, and/or team members.
Your time is valuable, but so are the schedules of your coworkers. When you’re working on a project with a dozen people, every hour matters, and you can’t afford to waste time.
3. You’re in charge of a project with huge stakes (think large bucks and make-or-break results).
Projects with significant financial backing or critical client outcomes, to expand on the previous point, must be scrutinised. Work schedules encourage you to do just that.
Why work plans are so important (and why you shouldn’t rush your own)
Making a plan is perhaps just as crucial as the project’s steps.
Is there any legwork involved in doing so? Absolutely.
Consider the advantages of creating a well-thought-out strategy for yourself and your teammates:
Obtain shareholder buy-in more quickly and with greater confidence
To make your project a success, you must first secure the money through resource planning. It is, however, a technique to demonstrate to stakeholders that you have done your study. Because they address every “what-if” and “what’s next,” detailed plans instil confidence in everyone involved.
Reduce waste and increase productivity (by saving time, cash, and resources)
Waste is the unseen yet deadly killer of any project. By identifying risks and assigning timely action items to keep projects moving, work plans limit the risk of budget overruns and lost time.
Improved accountability (in case the project goes sideways)
A work plan assures that your coworkers, clients, and superiors all have a stake in the outcome. You can always point to your strategy and the fact that it was authorised if something goes wrong.
Empower your employees to make better use of their time.
A work plan, if nothing else, makes your coworkers’ lives easier. Work plans that are well-crafted identify tasks, minimise unnecessary bottlenecks and notify your teammates exactly what needs to be done. This eliminates the never-ending guessing and back-and-forth that leads to burnout. It is critical to incorporate resource allocation into your work strategy in order to achieve success.
How to create a work plan that is both effective and actionable (in five steps)
Now it’s time to get down to business! The five steps to creating a solid work plan template that covers all of your bases are as follows:
1. Separate your general goals from your specific aims.
In short, what’s the aim of your project and how are you going to get there?
[Overall aim] will be met [particular target(s)].
Goal-setting in the context of a work plan entails highlighting big-picture objectives and linking them to particular KPIs. Consider the following scenario:
- “Improve our customer experience by boosting our Net Promoter Score (NPS) by [x]% over [y] period.”
- Increase our organic traffic by [x] percent over [y] timeframe to improve our search visibility.
- Increase our [marketing channel] engagement by [x percent] and our follower count by [y followers] in [z timeframe] to increase brand recognition.
Your goals and objectives should be able to be summarised in one or two sentences. This is for the sake of keeping your teammates and stakeholders focused on the task at hand.
It’s also crucial to double-check with other collaborators if your goals are feasible.
2. Make a list of your action items and tasks that must be completed.
Here you’ll decide what measures your teammates need to take to attain the goals and objectives listed above. These responsibilities could include:
- Analyzing and conducting research
- Obtaining information or quotations from consumers and customers
- Project deliverables creation, modification, and design (copy, graphics, blogs, landing pages)
- Meetings, check-ins, and onboarding sessions can all be scheduled.
- Investing in software and other tools
For example, a project aimed at improving traffic might launch a content marketing campaign, hire a new SEO, or redesign their blog (or all three).
In either case, your project specifications must be absolutely clear. These action items don’t have to be tied to particular deliverables in your work plan just yet. Prioritize the higher-level details.
3. Identify the responsibilities that will be required to get your idea off the ground.
Who will be the final sign-off on your project? And who is best qualified to take on the aforementioned tasks?
The following are key roles that are highlighted in each particular work plan:
- Responsible for project and/or task approval are managers, clients, and higher-ups.
- Internally, team members are working on the project.
- Collaborators from the outside (think: freelancers, contractors, consultants)
These parameters may change depending on your schedule, availability, or money. This reflects the fluid nature of a work schedule.
4. Create a schedule and timescale that is reasonable (based on all of the above)
It goes without saying that adhering to a project deadline is essential. This includes the following:
- Date of commencement
- Date of expiration
Your timetable for a work plan doesn’t have to be set in stone; it will most likely change as the planning and project development.
And that’s perfectly fine! Your schedule has three objectives:
- Once your project has been accepted, keep it moving ahead.
- Allow participants to confirm whether or not your timeline is feasible.
- Set expectations for your stakeholders (such as how long the project will take, when they’ll need to be involved, and how much time they should devote to it).
5. Establish a communication and check-in schedule.
Instructions and expectations were unclear. There are still a lot of unanswered questions. No-shows and no-replies are common occurrences. Even the most gifted teams can be crushed by all of the above.
Prior to and during the implementation of a work plan, communication is crucial. Make careful to outline the following to avoid misunderstandings and keep your projects on track:
- Your team will meet to discuss and document their efforts.
- How will you communicate progress (and how often)?
- Meeting times and expectations, as well as check-ins and updates
It is impossible to overstate the importance of open and timely communication. Project managers aren’t mind readers, and each phase of the work plan necessitates input from stakeholders. If you’re unsure, consult your team.
How to use a project management application to put your work plan into action
Assume you’ve gathered the essential components of your work plan. You’re all set to rock and roll.
Nice! But what’s next?
Putting your idea into execution may appear to be a major organisational challenge. Spreadsheets are a bit of a letdown. Emails that never end are a nightmare. Even in Slack, things might go missing.
There’s a reason why today’s project management tool is used by modern teams. You may define, control, and integrate all of your tasks and communications in a single platform with the proper tools. Nothing is misplaced, and no one is left in the dark.
Are you ready to create a work plan for your next project?
You must learn the art of planning if you are serious about project management.
The advantages of a blueprint can’t be understated, from gaining buy-in to minimising waste and beyond. That is why making a work plan is well worth the effort.
What’s the good news? Once you’ve hammered out your first work plan, it’ll be a lot easier to put into action the following time.
The procedure is much more efficient with the help of a project management tool like RisePath PlanCentral.
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