7 Step Process to Creating a Work Plan

Creating a Successful Work Plan in 7 Steps

2-Dec 2020

Creating a work plan is vital to the success of any project. While writing a plan can be a tricky 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 more recent study found that projects fail due to various reasons, such as:

  • Poor communication (29%)
  • Unidentified risks (29%)
  • Undefined goals (29%)
  • Changes in project objectives (37%)

Having a plan in place can help you avoid these and other potential pitfalls. How you create that plan, however, is crucial. It’s not enough to write down a list of things that everyone needs to do and when you need to have everything finished. Here, we’ll dive into the process of creating a work plan and the components you need to include for success. 

What Is a Work Plan?

First, we’ll discuss what a work plan is. It’s essentially a project “road map” that guides your team to successful 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 complete the project. 

Work planning is a vital component of any work project. Having a plan in place provides several significant benefits, including: 

  • Keeping everyone focused on the project’s objectives 
  • Ensuring organization by providing a sense of direction
  • Establishing a basis for teamwork
  • Providing guidelines for making decisions
  • Anticipating potential problems and how to manage them 

Without a strategic work plan in place, you run the risk of not allocating your resources properly, which increases the odds of issues and project failure. No plan also means you’re more likely to run into serious problems such as confusion, frustration, and more. 

How Do I Write a Work Plan?

Work plan creation can take many forms. The key is to identify what works best for you and your team. Overall, it needs to act as a guiding document that provides a clear path toward meeting your objectives. If the work plan template doesn’t make sense to some of the team members, it’s not likely to be very successful. 

When it comes to writing your work plan, you have a few options. One way is to create a Word or Excel document. You can write everything down, breaking up goals, tasks, resources, and obstacles into different sections. You can also download free work plan templates for Microsoft Word or Excel, which streamlines the process. Some templates can even show which tasks are in progress, which ones are pending, and which ones are complete.

Another popular type of work plan template is what’s known as a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart, in its simplest terms, is a visual representation of scheduled tasks over time. It shows you what the team needs to do and when. 

Using a Gantt chart, you and your team can see:

  • Project tasks
  • Project dates
  • Who is working on which tasks
  • How long the tasks should take
  • Which tasks overlap and group together

On the left-hand side of the chart, you have your list of tasks, how long they should take, and their start and end dates. Every bar on the right-hand side of the chart represents a task, and their positions show their start dates, end dates, and duration. For years, project managers wrote these charts out by hand, which could be a labor-intensive job. Today, however, you can easily create Gantt charts in Excel or by using special software. 

What Are the Components of a Successful Work Plan?

So, what makes a work plan successful? Here are seven components you should include to ensure that you complete your tasks and finish your project on time:

1. Identify Your Goal

Your very first step in work planning is to identify the goal (or goals) 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? Your goal is the driving force behind your project. Determining what that goal is is vital for being properly prepared, and it will help you to plan every one of your project’s steps. 

2. Write an Introduction

Your next step is to write an introduction. What you write here helps put your plan into context. It provides an outline that describes why you’re working on the project in the first place and why you have your specific goals. 

The introduction (or background) should be short and engaging. Be sure to include your reasons for creating the work plan. If anyone forgets what the purpose of the plan is or why you’re working on the project, the introduction will serve as a quick reminder. 

3. Define the SMART Objectives

Your goals and objectives are the things you want to accomplish throughout the duration of your work plan. Goals typically focus on the bigger picture of your project, while objectives are much more specific and tangible. The objectives are the things you can check off or cross out once they’re completed. 

One of the most helpful ways to define your goals and objectives is by using the SMART concept, where SMART is an acronym with each letter representing different ideas to help you set good goals:

  • Specific – What are you looking to accomplish? What actions do you need to take to get there?
  • Measurable – How will you measure your objectives? What data will you use? 
  • Achievable – Are your objectives and goals achievable? Do you have the skills and resources necessary to complete them?
  • Relevant – How do the objectives align with the bigger goal of your project? Why are they important? 
  • Time-bound – When will you complete the objectives? What’s your timeframe?

The SMART acronym helps provide clarity for you and everyone on your team. It focuses your attention and resources on what’s most important so you can be successful in completing those objectives and goals.  

4. List Your Resources

Write down a list of every resource you’ll need to achieve your goals and objectives so that you can complete your project successfully. The exact resources you need will depend on your specific project but might include such things as documents, space, consultants (or other professionals), and your budget. 

Some questions to ask yourself during this stage of the work planning process include:

  • How much of our budget will go toward this project?
  • Where is that money coming from (which department)?
  • Do I need any special software tools to streamline and complete this project? 

5. Identify Potential Obstacles

As much as you might like to think that nothing will go wrong and everything will go smoothly, even the best made plans experience hiccups. A critical component of work plan creation is to identify any potential obstacles that might stand in the way of your team achieving your goals and objectives and completing the project on time. 

The exact obstacles you might face depend on your team and your project. Here are a few for you to consider:

  • One or more employees becomes ill and needs to take a sick day or two.
  • Someone experiences a family emergency and needs to leave early before they complete their tasks.
  • A computer or other piece of vital equipment might break down, forcing you to pull money from an already tightly stretched budget.

6. Assign Accountability

Accountability is necessary to ensure that every task gets completed in a timely fashion. During this stage of work planning, you need to assign team members (or groups of team members) to specific tasks. Make it clear who needs to do what to avoid confusion later on. If something isn’t finished on time, you’ll know who you need to go to so that you can find out what happened. 

7. Execute Your Plan

Finally, it’s time to look over your plan to make sure everything is in order. If you’re satisfied with it, it’s time to set it in motion. Project management software can be particularly beneficial here to keep everything organized and accessible to everyone on your team. 

Even 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 you stay on task and don’t fall behind. It also allows you to make adjustments more quickly if they’re necessary. 

Take Your Work Plan to the Next Level

If you want to take your plans to the next level, consider implementing a systemthat can help manage work, billing, reporting, progress tracking, and more. Accelo offers cloud-based project management solutions, with such features as project planning, scheduling, time tracking, and project tracking. You can view progress and milestones on any device. Contact us to learn more, or sign up for a free trial to see just how we can help you create successful work plans that help you achieve your goals.

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