Being able to plan and manage projects effectively is a vital skill for successful employees and managers. Understanding what a work plan is and how to create one can help you navigate project management. In this article, we discuss the details of what to include in a work plan and a template and example that you can use to create your own.
What is a work plan?
A work plan is a written document that provides the framework for a project, including goals, timelines and responsibilities. It provides a visual representation of the project and should include all team members taking part in the work. You update the work plan regularly throughout the project with progress and other crucial information. If you're part of a larger project, you can create an individual work plan for your specific role.
For complex projects, using a work plan enables efficiency and effectiveness. By plugging in vital information, you can see the goals and objectives, timelines and team accountability. The four critical areas of a work plan include:
- Identifying objectives and setting goals
- Establishing team responsibilities
- Setting project timelines and milestones
- Establishing a budget
By thoughtfully creating a formal work plan, you can manage your project more easily and with greater accuracy. You're more likely to complete your project on time and budget by clearly defining a work plan that all project team members can review.
What are the different types of work plans?
There are several work plans that suit various situations, and each type affects the information you include. The different work plans include:
Employee work plans
Individual employees and small project groups typically use this form of a work plan. An employee work plan is effective for strategic planning, department projects or launching a new initiative. These plans often include:
- The aim of the project
- A budget projection
- The materials, resources and expenses for the project
- Individual goals and accountabilities
- Defined milestones for progress and an estimated completion date
For example, a product development team may create a work plan for finalizing a product prototype. The project's goal may be to decrease the cost of production by 10% and increase customer experience by 25%. The work plan lists all team members who are working on the project and the deadlines for each portion. Milestones along the way are specific markers to ensure that progress is being made, like sending out the new prototype to a customer panel for feedback.
Manager work plans
A manager's work plan is similar to the employee work plan, but with greater detail and scope. Manager work plans focus on larger scale projects that have a broader impact on a department or branch's success. They include the same information as the employee work plan with a few additions, such as:
- Project benefits for the company
- Statistics showing growth projections
- A detailed list of expenses and the budget associated with the project
For example, a marketing department manager may create a work plan for a strategic six-month project. The goals might be to increase online sales by 25% and wholesale product orders by 15%. The detailed objectives may include a radio and social media advertising campaign and hiring a social media intern to manage the program. The work plan comprises detailed financial projections, including costs and expenses.
Business owner and company work plans
A business owner or company's work plan includes the same key elements as those for employees or managers. Like a business plan, a work plan for an owner or company includes high-level strategic planning, focusing on an entire year or longer period. The work plan typically includes additional information, such as market research, long-term goals and financial projections.
For example, a business owner may strategically create a work plan for the next year of their service company. They may want to increase net profit by 20% over the upcoming year and list specific objectives to help meet that target. The business owner includes necessary market research that identifies an under-served demographic and critical milestones throughout the year to track their progress.
How do you create a work plan?
There are four key aspects to creating a work plan effectively. The steps include:
1. Setting project goals and objectives
The first step to creating an effective work plan is to set clear goals and objectives for the project. A goal is the driving factor behind the project and the ultimate vision. Objectives are the step-by-step processes or tasks that bring the plan to completion, as they are specific and tangible. Start with the goal and then define your objectives. For example, if you're launching a new product, your goal may be to increase website traffic by 50% over the next six months. An objective for the goal might be to create a social media campaign.
An effective way to set goals and objectives is by using the SMART method. SMART is an acronym for goal setting guidelines and stands for:
- Specific: goals and objectives should be clear and detailed
- Measurable: goals and objectives use tangible, measurable metrics
- Achievable: goals and objectives should challenge you, but be realistic to accomplish
- Relevant: goals and objectives should apply to your vision and values
- Time-bound: goals and objectives should have a realistic timeframe of completion
2. Establishing team responsibilities
Once you have clearly defined the work plan's goals and objectives, you can identify your team and assign responsibilities. Depending on the project's size and the complexity of goals and objectives, assign a team leader for each area of accountability. A team leader can follow up on objectives, lead project meetings and update the work plan as the project progresses. If the project is extensive and intricate, you may assign hierarchy levels within the project. This way, one project manager can meet with multiple team leaders to maximize efficiency and effective communication.
3. Setting project timeline and milestones
You have identified the project goals and objectives and have committed your team to individual responsibilities. Now you can set the project timeline and milestones. Timelines and milestones are essential in a work plan to minimize expenses and increase effectiveness.
The timeline is the ultimate date of completion for the project. Milestones are smaller deadlines within the timeline to ensure the project stays on course. For example, the timeline for a project may be the end of the year. You may set monthly milestones that measure if you're on track to meet the year-end deadline. You can adjust your timeline based on whether you're meeting milestones.
4. Establishing a budget
Setting a budget is typically one of the last stages of creating a work plan. Often, you need to conduct research, and gather third-party costs and other information to develop a realistic budget. The budget should break down each objective into the costs and expenses related to the details and project requirements. Updating your work plan throughout the project provides you with real-time data on how your team is maintaining the projected budget. You can then make informed decisions about costs and allocation of resources to stay within budget.
Simple work plan template
The following is a simple work plan template that you can customize to plan your next project:
Introduction *Write an introduction paragraph that includes these four pieces of information:
Sentence 1: The business problem or challenge
Sentence 2: Your goal for solving the problem
Sentence 3: Your project and solution
Sentence 4: Explanation of why the project and solution will solve the problem
Clearly define your SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound).
List the specific tasks you need to complete to achieve your goal. Keep this list short, preferably three to five primary functions.
Set the timeline of the project, including a beginning, essential milestones and completion dates.
Identify the people, money, tools and other resources required to complete the project.
Detail each team member's roles and responsibilities on the project. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to avoid confusion during the project.
List the sub-tasks you need to complete to achieve what you've laid out in the “Objectives” section.*
Download Work Plan Template
To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.
Work plan example
The following is an example of a work plan for a marketing department, using the template above:
Introduction Over the past six months, online sales have slowly dropped. Our goal is to revitalize our e-commerce store and increase sales by 20% over the next three months. Our marketing campaigns are stale, and customers see the same online presence from our company. We need to revitalize our social media presence to increase sales. We can stimulate interest by updating our advertising campaigns and social media presence.
The goal is to increase online sales by 20% over the next three months.
1. Create a new advertising campaign on social media outlets.*
2. Create a marketing content calendar for social media platforms.
*3. Create an email marketing campaign targeting our ideal customer demographic on social media.
The project begins: July 1.*
Complete the new advertising campaign and marketing calendar by July 7.
*Complete the email marketing campaign by July 14.
Budget for social media advertising: $5,000*
*Budget for email marketing service provider: $250
Bobby: planning email campaigns*
Sandra: designing graphics and photography
*Alex: creating social media content and ad copy
- Create social media advertising graphics
- Create social media advertising copy
- Create ads in ad manager accounts on various social media platforms
- Create tracking pixels to monitor the success of each ad