A work plan is vital to the success of any project. While writing a plan can be a tedious process, the consequences of not having one are too great.
According to a Spikes Cavell finance survey, 39% of projects fail due to a lack of planning. A recent study by PMI found that another big factor in project failure is the improper application of power skills — sometimes known as soft skills.
Having a plan in place can help you keep everyone focused, establish a foundation for teamwork and make it easier to anticipate potential problems. How you create that plan, however, is crucial. It’s not enough to write down a list of tasks and a proposed timeline.
Below, we’ll dive into the process of creating an effective work plan.
A work plan, or project plan, is a “road map” that guides your team to project completion. It outlines the goals of the project, the timeline you need to follow, the tasks everyone needs to complete and the processes required to thread those tasks together.
Without a strategic work plan in place, you run the risk of not allocating resources properly, which increases the odds of encountering roadblocks or producing confusion among your team and clients.
Here are two of the simplest ways to write a work plan yourself.
Your first step in work planning is to identify the goal — the driving force — of your project. Are you looking to meet the needs of your customers in a better, more efficient manner? Or, are you looking to scale up to meet the needs of your market? Even if you find that your goals for every project are similar, it’s still important to identify each one so that everyone is aligned.
Having a clear business strategy makes it easier to determine project goals.
Along with your larger goal, you’ll need to identify milestones, or objectives. These are the things you check off along the way. One of the most helpful ways to define your objectives is by using the SMART concept — each must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. These parameters focus your team’s attention and resources on what’s most important.
If you’re struggling to pin down objectives, comb through past projects for measurable outcomes you can bring forward into your next project.
Write down a list of every resource you’ll need to achieve your goal and objectives. This includes everything from documents and assets, including internal blogs or guides, to consultants and budget. Clearly defined accountability ensures that every task gets completed in a timely fashion. During this stage of work planning, you need to assign team members or groups to specific tasks. Make it clear who needs to do what to avoid confusion later on.
Expand upon this step with resource allocation and resource management templates.
Like objectives, a work plan should be time-bound. To determine how long your team will have to complete each task, you’ll need to have deadlines — not just estimates. While they could shift over the course of your project, these dates are important for managing both internal communication and client expectations.
Keep track of your team’s time throughout each project so you have the data to compare actual time spent vs. estimated time for each task.
Even if you’re following an airtight plan, you could experience hiccups. A critical component of work plan creation is to identify potential obstacles and a plan for working around them. What if one or more of your employees becomes sick or experiences an emergency? What if vital technology breaks down? Plan for both solving the technical problem and communicating to your team and clients about it.
Schedule visibility and an adaptive scheduling tool can facilitate quick adjustments to project responsibilities.
Finally, it’s time to look over your plan to make sure everything is in order. If you’re satisfied and have informed your team of their responsibilities, it’s time to set it in motion. The best part of having a well-thought-out work plan is that you’ll be able to refer to it as a source of truth throughout the project. Especially if you don’t have a dedicated project manager, a work plan can be vital to successful project completion.
Consider how well your tech stack supports your work plan. Have you consolidated your software lately?
Once your work plan is in motion, don’t forget about it. Go back periodically to review your current progress against the original goals and objectives. Tracking your progress will help ensure that everyone stays on task and nothing falls behind. It also allows you to make adjustments more quickly if they’re necessary.
Make it easy to review project status and profitability with a platform that provides real-time reporting.
If you want to take your work plan to the next level and reduce the manual labor required, consider implementing a client work management solution. The right platform can act as a partner in every step of planning and project execution and automatically generate invaluable data about real-time progress. Learn what to look for in client work management software.