What It Is
A work plan is a way of mapping out the steps and objectives of a particular project. Projects are non-repetitive activities – they consist of a set of interrelated tasks that must be completed in order to achieve the project’s goal. Examples of projects include developing a new product, planning and executing renovations, writing a strategic plan, or planning an event. Common components of a work plan, which can be used for large projects, include:
- Introduction and Background (outlining the problems)
- Goals and Objectives (identifying the outputs – including intermediate steps)
- Resources and Constraints (identifying the inputs – human resource time, for example)
- Strategy and Actions (how you will get from inputs to outputs)
- Appendices (budget, schedule, etc.)
Why It Matters
A work plan can be useful in planning large projects because it helps bring order and simplicity to what might otherwise be a daunting process. By breaking large jobs into manageable tasks and assigning them in a methodical way, your business can tackle the big issues and still stay on top of day-to-day operations.
Work plans are also helpful for ongoing tasks, as they communicate expected responsibilities. As ever, a little time spent planning a project on the front end can save lots of time and energy as the project plays out.
In terms of scheduling, a Gantt chart can help map your process in a useful way. A Gantt chart is a bar chart that shows how long each task will take, and it can be color-coded to indicate who is responsible for which task. See an example of a Gantt chart here.
If your organization has simple, routine tasks, a more simple checklist may suffice in setting expectations and ensuring steps are not forgotten.
If the project is more complex, a critical path network could be a place to start. The critical path network identifies different steps, their preceding steps, and the estimated time that each will take. An example of a critical path chart is located here.
You can also use the critical path network to determine the earliest and latest possible start times for non-critical-path tasks, which can be useful as you’re balancing the ongoing project needs with your day-to-day business priorities.
Resources for More Information
Using work plans to manage simple and complex projects increases the chances of successful execution and completion.
Glossary of Related Terms
Checklist: An informational tool intended to aid in memory, expectations, and consistency of tasks in a given project or job role.
Critical Path Network: Identifies different steps in a project, their preceding steps and dependencies, and the estimated time that each step will take.
Gantt Chart: A bar chart that shows how long individual tasks in a project will take and who is responsible for which task.
Work Plan: Includes specific and precise goals; benchmarks that will be used to measure goal achievement; major problems anticipated; three or four of the most essential work steps and dates for completion; and identification of which of the supervisor’s goals relate to employee goals.