Developing an Effective Work Plan
Your guide to effective work planning
Set demonstrable objectives and a measurable deliverables plan
A work plan represents the formal road map for a project. It should clearly articulate the required steps to achieve a stated goal by setting demonstrable objectives and measurable deliverables that can be transformed into concrete actions. An effective plan serves as a guiding document, enabling the realization of an outcome through efficient team collaboration.
Before developing the methodology to create an effective plan, it can be useful to define some relevant nomenclature. Goals, strategy, objectives and tactics are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, each has a specific meaning.
A goal defines what you are trying to achieve and represents the mission concept. For example, a hypothetical example might be to achieve world domination, or perhaps something less ambitious, like make your company more profitable. Strategy defines the broad strokes that will help achieve that goal. For example, one strategy to make a company more profitable might be to improve the efficiency of marketing dollars. Another might be to reduce costs or enhance the product offering to increase total addressable market.
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Objectives are the measurable deliverables defined against strategies. For example, an objective for improving the efficiency of marketing dollars might be defined as achieving a 20% reduction in cost per acquisition. Setting clear measurable and realistic objectives can help prioritize and track the progress of the operational plan.
Tactics represent the specific checklist of techniques employed to achieve the demonstrable objectives. For example, improving the efficiency of marketing dollars by 20% might be achieved through the tactic of adding low acquisition cost channels to the mix, such as SEO or social media marketing. Another tactic might be to test new messaging or creative, find new keywords to advertise on, or improve the performance of direct response landing pages.
The final goal is to create a step-by-step worksheet. Prior to creating a detailed plan, the preliminary stages might involve a meeting of key stakeholders and project sponsors. The first step is to establish a goal and determine some strategic ideas. This will facilitate the development of a broad general outline, identify some of the larger strategic considerations, and help define scope constraints. Brainstorming can often identify individual strategies and tactics to support the key objectives.
It’s important to establish clear strategic goals with measurable deliverables.
Planning activities can be accomplished by working backwards from the final goal with core initiatives arranged hierarchically. Developing the plan can be achieved through iterative refinements of strategy, objectives and the underlying tactics. Gating factors should be accounted for in the development of a straw man outline. The main objectives and summary checklist should be included as the first step of the process.
Once the project outline is complete, it’s important to define clear realistic deliverables as part of the action plan. Milestones allow progress to be tracked against deliverables within a results-oriented framework. A timeline can be instrumental in identifying what needs to happen and when.
Objectives should be realistic and relevant to the stated goals. A good plan will often fan out from goal to tactic. For example, a single goal might be supported by a small number of strategies, each with a single or small number of objectives. Objectives will often contain many tactics which should comprise the concrete actions to be accomplished within an achievable time frame. The more granular the tactical plan, the easier it will be to follow. Tasks can often be broken down in to sub tasks which represent individual units of work resulting in identifiable deliverables. As the project commences, its important to track against the agreed upon deliverables.
Planning activities can be accomplished by working backwards from the final goal.
A clear definition of responsibilities and roles should be reflected in the project work plan. Allocating responsibilities among designated stakeholders with clearly assigned tasks is a key component of the operation plan. That way, all members of the team can function according to the team charter. The final action plan represents a living document with all the required steps, deliverables and deadlines detailed.
When the project commences, it’s important to monitor performance and periodically review against the objectives stated in the tactical plan. Incremental progress can be tracked against objective indicators on a step by step worksheet. A low-tech solution could be implemented with an Excel template or Google sheets; however, this can be more effectively accomplished within the framework of formal project management software which often includes team collaboration features as well as various pre-built templates.
monday.com provides the perfect blend of simplicity and ease of use with strong team collaboration features that are suitable for any project. An example of this can be visualized in a logical framework on the worksheet above. Each column in the sheet can represent a person, timeline, deliverable or status. Each row can represent an individual tactical item in the project plan. Groups allow for the hierarchical structuring of tactics into objectives to support the strategy. An entire board can represent the goal, or for more complex executions, individual strategies. The software platform allows for easy status updates and team messaging across tasks with the use of color providing visualization of project status across the entire enterprise, making it easy to communicate progress to all team members at a glance.