First, let’s delve into what a work plan is. These plans are essentially the specific goals of the project and how the individuals responsible for that project will be able to execute it. While these are effective for personal work as well, they’re primarily used for those who are engaging in a work assignment and they’re generally for projects that require a lot of input from different people and a lot of steps to render them complete.
With the work plan, you can take a single ultimate goal and break it down into the small steps that need to be achieved for that overarching goal to be successful. This generally works best if you break things down into the smallest steps you can and then assign each of the steps to one person who will be responsible for making sure that step is executed and ready for the person who has the next step. So, let’s take a closer look at just what it takes to create the work plan.
The very first thing you need to know is exactly what it is that you hope to achieve with your plan. You need a specific and measurable outcome that you are seeking to achieve or you will never actually know if you’ve achieved the objective. Now, whether this is a huge, overarching goal or a somewhat smaller one is up to you. Work plans (while commonly saved for large projects) can most definitely still be used for smaller ones. The key is to have something that can be reached through multiple steps and that is SMART. These goals are the ones that will be achievable.
A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. That means you need to know what is being done and why. You also need to be able to measure the results and know that the goal has been achieved. You also need to be able to achieve the goal. Is it realistic to get it done the way you’re attempting? It should be relevant, which means each of the steps within the goal needs to add up to the final result you’re looking for. And finally, it needs to be time-bound, which means there needs to be a specific time frame for when it’s done.
Next, you’ll need to break down the overarching goal into smaller steps that can easily be handled by a single person or a smaller team. Each of these steps should be specific and measurable so that every member of the team can tell when they have been achieved. If the steps are too large or too variable it can be difficult to determine if that step is complete and if the next team or individual can get started on their steps to move the project forward. It can also be difficult for the individual working on that step to understanding what they’re trying to achieve.
Using a Gantt chart and your SMART goal setting makes it easy to accomplish this.
Take a look at each of the different steps that need to be done for your ultimate goal to come to fruition. Now, take a look at each of the smaller steps that you’ve determined need to be accomplished. Finally, take a look at the team you have at your disposal to assign these tasks to. What are their strengths? Where would they be able to help push the project forward? Which tasks would each member excel at the most? That’s how you want to take the initiative and assign the tasks out so that each person is working in an area where they will perform best.
Each of your tasks should have a deadline attached to it so each member knows what they’re working toward and how long they have to do it. If they don’t have a set deadline it becomes very difficult to hold anyone to get their tasks completed. After all, they have as long as they want, right? That’s not the case so take the time to set the deadlines that everyone needs to stick to and make sure that each member of the team knows their deadline. They should know the deadline for their task, for the task immediately before theirs and for the overall project (at a minimum) so they can make sure that their tasks are performed on time and consistent with the overall timeline that you’re looking for.
You want to make sure that you’re following up with every member of the team to make sure that everyone is following the rules and the deadlines that have been set for them. This doesn’t mean you need to walk into every office and see what’s happening. With the right work plan and Gantt Chart you’ll be able to check in on the employee progress that’s going on without ever having to walk into those offices. These charts allow you to set to-dos and see who is following the plan and the schedule. You’ll also be able to see where your team is struggling.
If you’re following up with everyone who is involved in this project you should immediately know if something is going wrong. You should also be able to immediately make changes to the process, the people involved or the steps involved if you find this to be the case. Even more important, you can see where people are getting off track or not pulling their weight. These aspects make it easier for you to get the project done on time and a budget because you’re on top of it all.
Chances are there are several people within the team that you’re working with that need to work with others. They may not need to work directly together all the time, but they probably have at least a few stages of the project that they need to communicate about. Set up check-in times for the members of the full team to get together and discuss what’s going on and to ask any questions they may have of you or the other team members. This allows the project to stay on task and allows each of your team to interact with one another positively, face to face.
Now, when it comes to check-in you want to make sure that you’re doing it effectively. Even though this isn’t just about you checking in with your employees, but about everyone checking in with each other, there are some tips and that you can get some benefit out of. For one thing, you should respect that their time is valuable and that you don’t want to take up too much of it. You should also not be afraid to ask for help or clarification in understanding some aspects of the work plan and project. If you don’t understand that’s fine, but if you try to tell someone else what to do when you don’t know what you’re talking about it’s only going to cause more trouble in the long run.
Once the project is complete or even after each stage of the project is complete you may want to take a closer look to see if everyone is following along with the work plan. It’s entirely possible that they are not getting the tasks done quite right or that the work plan needs to change because something else has changed. Maybe they didn’t complete the task to the level that you were expecting or required. Whatever it is you are the one that is in charge. You’re the one who needs to make sure that everything meets standards.
If you come across a section of the project that doesn’t meet the standards that have been set that’s the time that you should be doing a little more digging and looking to see just why it didn’t work out the way it was supposed to. You may find yourself having to get parts of the project redone and the sooner you recognize that the better off you and the project as a whole are going to be. You won’t have as much downtime where nothing is happening when it should.
When the project is fully completed and presented to you that doesn’t mean that everything is done. That means that the team believes they have completed all of the stages of the work plan, but there could be more to the process. Your job, as the final project manager, is to take a look at the finished result. Whether your project is a paper, a physical object or something else entirely, you need to make sure that the result is what you wanted (or if what you wanted wasn’t possible it’s an effective result).
If you are pleased with the result or you recognize that your result just wasn’t a possibility then you’re done. It’s time to finish off the project in whatever way you need. The project may need to be presented to a client or it may need to be executed in some other way. Or it may just need to be put away somewhere. On the other hand, if you haven’t achieved the result that you wanted or you haven’t gotten to a satisfactory reason as to why you can’t achieve the result that you want it’s time to back up a few steps. This is where you need to start your team back at it to get a better result next time
Now it’s time for you to get started on the next project. If you have something lined up already it’s time to just jump right in and see what you can make of it. If you don’t have anything yet you may not need your team to do anything. Instead, you can just sit back, relax and wait for the team to be needed again. This is the stage where, no matter what else, you’re going to turn off the work plan you’ve created and be done with it once and for all. If you do have another project that needs to be completed you’re going to need a new work plan, after all. So, take a close look, make sure your work plan is complete, and then get on with the rest of your work schedule.
When it comes down to it, you need a work plan that is going to work for you and that’s possible if you know what you’re doing. You need to make sure that you are completing each task efficiently and effectively. You need to make sure that you are planning every step in the best way possible, and you also need to make sure that you’re keeping everyone to the job that they are supposed to be doing. All of this can be done with the right work plan and definitely with the use of a Gantt chart.