Before you can accomplish your goals, you need to plan how to reach them. A work plan creates a clear path to those desired goals and objectives. Along that path will be resources, constraints and other work management elements that need to be described in your plan.
Of course, the work plan won’t be written and initiated by a single person. It’s an action plan for a project team that should eventually be submitted to board members and stakeholders for approval. Once all is said and done, then you can continue building out the rest of your work plan.
If you build your work plan in a project management software, then it’s easy to continue to iterate on your plan and make improvements over time. And if that software is online, then everyone can collaborate in real time and know exactly which steps are needed for an ideal result.
Clearly a work plan is pretty important, so let’s dig deeper into how to make one and get it approved.
What Is a Project Work Plan?
A project work plan is a project management plan by another name. When done properly, your project work plan will clearly articulate and outline the steps needed to achieve the goals and objectives of a project by baking in tasks, milestones, deliverables, resources, budgetary requirements and a timeline to weave it all together.
It’s usually best suited for large projects and initiatives, but can really be used on any level. Before beginning your work plan, consider using SMART goals: create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-related. This should help you start your plan off on the right foot.
Related: Free Work Plan Template
Why Do You Need a Work Plan?
As we mentioned, your work plan will act as your roadmap for the entire project. Not only will it keep you and your team organized, but it will ensure that you get buy-in from key stakeholders, related departments, relevant accountability/risk leaders, and more.
Additionally, it helps manage expectations on both the stakeholder level as well as on the managerial and team member level—everyone that starts off on the right foot has a better chance of landing on the right foot, too.
How to Make a Work Plan
Creating a work plan is a very involved process and requires as many established details as possible before you present to stakeholders. Here’s what you’ll need to focus on.
1. Identify the Project Name, Purpose and General Timeline
By doing this you can tell your project approvers that your project will take one quarter, six months or one year given the purpose of the project, as well as the rest of the information you will fill in after this step.
You should also tell your project approver the purpose of your project. Will your project be to better meet customer needs? Maybe your competitor released an upgraded version of a product you have, and you need to scale up to meet market demands. Whatever the ultimate goal is, make sure that it’s stated right off the bat.
2. Put Your Work Plan into Context
Write an introduction and background to better outline why you need this project to happen and what made you consider trying to meet that ultimate goal in the first place. Creating context and establishing the problem helps explain why you need the solution.
3. Establish Your Goals and Objectives
Your goals might sound like your purpose, but they’re a little more specific in that they’re more long-term oriented — i.e., your team learned more about the process of launching a bug fix or how to respond more directly to customer/market feedback.
Similarly, your project objectives should be measurable. For example, the objective of this project after launch is to create an increase of xx% of active monthly subscribers, or a certain dollar amount in revenue generated.
It’s best to use your SMART goals here. Build out what is specific, what is measurable, what is achievable, what is relevant and what can be done within the project time frame.
Related: Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Guide
4. Define and Coordinate Your Resources
When you define and coordinate your resources, be sure to address the following questions:
- How much of the budget will go towards this project?
- From what department will the budget be allocated?
- Who do you need on the team?
- Which software tools (like time tracking, team collaboration, project management tools) will be required to streamline the project?
5. Understand Your Constraints
And especially consider the triple constraint of time, budget and resources. Because at this point, you’ve already listed out all three in previous steps, you can now factor in risks that might hamper those processes.
Maybe some of your team members take a few sick days during this period of time; maybe unexpected tasks have to be executed; maybe some of your tools crash that require more money pulled from the budget. Whatever your constraints may be, factor in anything that might feel like a risk that can lead to a full-blown constraint, which may affect the completion of deliverables or even the goals and objectives of your project.
6. Discuss Risks and Accountability
Risks need to be assessed from as many corners as possible. Consider paid time off, vacation time that staff has accrued, and company holidays. Consider any freak accidents that might affect your budget or timeline directly. And then appoint someone to take charge in case the environment becomes favorable for those risks to become reality. Create a sense of accountability so that all team members can have a measurable stake in the successful outcome of the project to minimize the possibility of error.
Cover not just the basics, but every detail in your project work plan with a fine-toothed comb. With every potential question or red flag already covered, you’ll be able to get sign off from stakeholders and start your project with the right expectations in mind.
Remember that your work plan is the action plan that will guide your project, so the more details you have about constraints and potential risks, the better your team will perform their tasks to produce deliverables and achieve the goals and objectives.
Work Plan Template
Our work plan template can help you document the steps explained above. Be sure to constantly monitor your template and update it as changes occur in your planning process.
Tools You Need to Make a Work Plan
Above the entire work plan, outlining the whole thing like a skeleton is your project timeline. In your timeline, you’ll mark down tasks, deliverables, their dependencies, milestones, which task is assigned to which department and team member, how many levels of approval are on each task, etc.
At this point, many project managers will employ Gantt charts to sort out their timelines in a waterfall pattern. If the project is small enough or it makes sense, many project managers will use tools that help them sort out tasks and deliverables in a simple task list.
Our Gantt charts, for example, help you create a visual view of your project tasks over time. You can easily see the project start date, what each project task is, who it’s assigned to, how long each task is expected to take, as well as the completion date for the project as a whole.
To learn more about how Gantt charts and other project planning tools that can help you make the perfect work plan, watch the short video below. We’ll quickly show you all the ways that project planning software can improve your planning, execution and reporting—so you can make that work plan with confidence.
ProjectManager Can Help You with Your Work Plan
Getting every detail of a project sorted is no easy task—from managing your team to managing your stakeholders. It requires a delicate balance of understanding your project timeline, the tasks that make up the project scope, potential risks, balancing a budget and allocating resources. Not to mention, doing all of this while keeping the customers’ ultimate needs and the project goals and objectives in mind.
A work plan template can help you organize your thoughts, but in order to create your action plan and execute it, you’ll need a dynamic project management software to help you throughout the planning, execution and monitoring phases.
With ProjectManager, our cloud-based Gantt charts let you schedule your entire project timeline, assign tasks, create dependencies and track all of it. Additionally, we have team collaboration features that allow your staff and managers to comment on tasks, attach necessary files, and interact with each other no matter where they’re located.
ProjectManager also features resource management tools that let you balance the hours worked across your team. This helps ensure that your time, tools and resources are balanced no matter what.
Creating a work plan and don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered. With ProjectManager, you’ll get access to a cloud-based software that helps you to better track your work plan from milestone to milestone. Start your free 30-day trial with ProjectManager today.