I was rummaging around my hard drive and found this. I know I am getting old because I cannot remember how long ago I wrote it or for what purpose. This continues my theme about planning. I think there are many ways to go about planning and one size does not fit all. The point is not exactly HOW you do it but that you DO IT.
A work plan may seem like something that encourages control freaks, but it is the opposite. With a good and well understood plan, employment and engagement comes easier.
What is a work plan?
Managers create and use work plans to ensure that their team knows what to work on and how to weigh competing priorities. A work plan can be formal or informal and may address the areas:
- Task lists. Work plans define which tasks need to be completed and by whom.
- Skills development. Work plans should include tasks that ensure team members learn the skills they need to meet current or emerging requirements. When training needs are not identified as part of the work plan, they are often overlooked, put off, or ignored. For a team to produce results today and in the future, managers must identify the development that will be necessary.
- Process improvement. Processes enable the team to product results and need to be updated and improved regularly to ensure they continue to support productivity goals. Work plans should identify tasks or projects needed to optimize process efficiency.
- Time frame covered. Depending on the nature of the work, work plans can be created monthly, weekly, or on a project by project basis (making it a project plan). Work plans can also get broken down by day into task lists that highlight key priorities and desired results.
- Resource management. Work plans integrate various goals and projects into a plan that lets team members know who is doing each task and how the work that everyone will be doing adds up to the total of what needs to be accomplished. For example, if a team has four major projects, a work plan will define how the team’s resources will be deployed to complete all the work for all four projects.
- Deadlines and milestones. Work plans define when work needs to be completed and interim milestones that are important to accomplishing results on time. Work that needs to be handed off to other team members or departments is identified and agreements made about when and how the handoff will occur are spelled out in the work plan.
- Links to goals and expectations. When team members know how their work supports goals and expectations, performance improves. Work plans can ensure that this link is clear by distinguishing how daily and weekly tasks support goals and expectations.
Why create a work plan?
All managers have the responsibility to produce results. Throughput improves when assignments are clear and organized. Work plans enable managers to plan and execute work that is focused and aligned to achieve goals. Managers need to know what their team members are working on and that they are doing the work that will make the greatest difference to the company – work plans can be used to make certain this is the case. A monthly work plan that ties to the team’s overall goals and expectations help the manager focus on both the daily needs of the business and the broader strategies and goals. In absence of a well defined work plan, managers may have a tendency to get drawn into the daily work and lose sight of the results they are expected to achieve.
How to Create a Work Plan
Caveat: Work plans can take MANY forms and range in specificity!
Before creating a work plan: To create a work plan, managers must know their team’s goals and customer expectations. They must also understand the current work demands placed on each team member. Each company and function has regular work cycles that need to be understood and incorporated to the work plan. For example, the accounting function will generally have a regular spike in workload associated with year-end financial reporting and processing.
Steps to Creating a Work Plan
- Create a template that will work best for your function. Using a worksheet software application, like MS Excel will allow for easy sorting by deadline, by person, or by priority.
- Determine the time frame for the work plan (week or month). It is often more efficient to create a monthly work plan with weekly milestones.
- List relevant goals and customer expectations.
- Define and prioritize individual tasks. These tasks may be small projects or steps in a larger process or project. This portion of the plan most resembles common to-do lists that many people use to track what they need to accomplish. This task list, however, serves as a to-do list for all team members that demonstrates the relationship between their work and defines priorities. Remember to include skills development and process improvement tasks on this list.
- Get input on the work plan. Send a draft to team members, asking for their input and questions. This is an opportunity to communicate and clarify expectations.
- Update the work plan daily or weekly. Work plans should be rolling documents that reflect new needs and account for work that has been completed. Work plans are most useful when they are current and accurate.
Work plans are excellent management tools!
Managers who create and use work plans have an advantage over those who do not. Work plans help Managers proactively manage work and produce better results with available resources. They are:
Excellent communication tools
- Team Members – by regularly sharing the work plan with team members, then updating and re-communicating it, team members will be clear on their priorities and focus.
- Manager – Meet with your manager regularly to review progress of goals and the work plan. This practice will enable your manager to know how he or she can support you best – removing barriers or prioritizing work.
- Peers – Sharing your work plan with peers will facilitate conversations that clarify internal customer expectations.
Time management tools
- Managers who create and use work plans can manage their time more effectively because the priorities are clear.
- Team members know where they should focus, improving their efficiency.
- Work plans enable managers to celebrate success when tasks are completed. The practice of updating the work plan provides many opportunities to acknowledge accomplishment.
- In the absence of a work plan, great work is more likely to go unnoticed.
Goal measurement and management tools
- Managers can use work plans to manage goals and to determine when the work that supports each Early warning tools
- Managers who use work plans will be able to recognize and respond to new or emerging problems or barriers.
- Tasks required to solve problems and eliminate or minimize barriers should be added to the work plan.
- The discipline of regularly updating a work plan enables managers to effectively handle challenges and identify opportunities.
How to know if your work plan is aligned?
A work plan is aligned when the work supports team goals, company strategies, and customer expectations. To ensure that a work plan is aligned:
- Review the company’s strategies, team goals, and customer expectations regularly and before creating a work plan. Focus on major strategic changes or initiatives and ask, “Does this work move the team in the right direction and will they get there fast enough?”
- Share work plans with your manager and peers regularly.
- Monitor the satisfaction and morale of your team. One of the tell tale signs of poor alignment is worker dissatisfaction – be sure the purpose and usefulness of work is clear to all team members.
Since this piece is a bit more factual (read dry) I thought I would leave you with this bit of amusement.