Without a plan, many things can get in the way of achieving your project goals, no matter how big or small they are. For example, you could waste time and money on unnecessary activities, encounter avoidable delays that affect your timeline or have team members go get distracted by competing priorities.
And the reality is, whether you’re new to leading a team, new to project management, or a veteran, there are always new ways to streamline team workflows. In this article, we will cover how to create and build an effective work plan from start to finish.
An effective work plan outlines a plan of action that creates and tracks goals and keeps tactical operations in perspective. Effective work plans also assess bottlenecks along the way.
An effective work plan also breaks down the project management process into smaller achievable tasks for you and your team. Whether it’s launching a new campaign, building a website, planning a major event, or launching a big-budget business idea, as the person on the driver’s seat, you’re always in the know of the overall direction. A work plan includes:
Using the visual simplicity of a Gantt chart, this green bar gaant chart is an easy and effective way to list tasks and show the length of time for each job.
Philadelphia's favorite founding father, Benjamin Franklin famously said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” To set your project up for success, it's a good idea to start a work plan from the get-go. A work plan can span over a period of time ranging from four, six to 12 months. Depending on the size of the project, task, or resources available, timelines can be adjusted to suit the project. Here's why:
A visual timeline lets you look at your project at glance. Use this blue and black timeline presentation. Add dates or team members to each task and share it with them.
Now that you know a work plan is a successful foundation of any project, what’s the process of developing one? Before going into the details, let’s briefly cover the steps you need to take to help you get to your big picture.
Step 1: Set SMART goals
Step 2: Know your objectives or purpose
Step 3: Cost, budgeting, resourcing
Step 4: Team roles and responsibilities
Step 5: Establish a timeline - Set trackable milestones and deadlines
Step 6: Identify challenges
Step 7: Check-in and monitor progress on goals
Step 8: Execute and evaluate
Goals are the starting point of any project. Goal-setting empowers you and your team to take action. It gives you the reason; the why you want to achieve something and motivates you to set the path towards it — moving you forward to where you want to be.
The SMART goal guide provides five criteria to help you define your goals. Depending on the timeframe you’ve set for your project, you can also break goals down into short, medium, and long-term outcomes. Above all make sure your goals are clear, realistic, and meaningful to increase success. Just like a basketball game, when the team has a clear sight of where to shoot the goal, they can get into position, strategize, and work together to score that goal and win the game. Each goal should be:
While goals determine the broad vision and define an outcome, objectives are specific and tangible next steps taken to carry out a task, in order to reach a goal. An objective defines a scope, provides specific steps, and is backed by a time frame. The chart below further explains the key differences between goals and objectives.
Once you've settled on your objectives, you may need to include a budget breakdown of what it will cost to achieve them for your project. Establishing a budget also enables team members to plan and cost out the activities or resources they need to complete tasks for the project.
Project costs can include conducting research, hiring a venue, independent contractors, materials, or equipment. Suppose you forecast the budget with each milestone in mind; you'll be able to review your budget accordingly and identify any extra spending problems or allocate them for other parts of the project.
Designating responsibilities are vital in helping you execute your project. Whether you have a team assigned to you or if you’re choosing your own, part of your work plan is to identify the team players responsible for each area of your project.
Playing on their strengths and expertise can improve productivity and increase workflow efficiency. In addition, during this part of your work plan process, you may also uncover insufficient team skills, which you may need resources for.
At the end of the day, your team players need to understand their role, objectives, and the project's set goals so they can actively contribute and complete their assigned tasks. Then, through teamwork and shared responsibilities, the pieces of your project, like a puzzle, can come together seamlessly.
If you’ve set up a team on Canva you can easily assign roles and collaborate with your team members and get down to business in moments.
Setting a timeline with trackable milestones streamlines the overall project journey and workflow and keeps everyone in the loop — like the knowledge hub for key project deliverables and deadlines. Below are some of the essential points you can add to your timeline to keep everyone on the same page:
Timelines can change based on your project status or progress. Easily customize these updates to suit your needs with this red-navy-corporate-gantt-s charts
At this stage of your work plan development, you may have identified some challenges, opportunities, or resourcing requirements. It can cover things like a key team member going on maternity leave during a crucial part of the project process. A shortage of team skills, or you may need to address stakeholder feedback or reaction to a task you’ve shared with them.
By identifying these challenges you’ll be able to remove roadblocks, organize your thoughts, review options, and adjust your work plan and workflow accordingly. In addition, you can use this time to manage team expectations and ensure everything is in place and done precisely the way you’ve envisioned with not too much oversight.
Following the previous six steps, by now, you should have something someone can say, “Sounds like a plan, Stan!”. Here is where it’s up to you to manage and monitor your work plan during project execution. Ensure you add check-ins to:
If you’re too optimistic about timings, you may notice that specific tasks are not meeting the set deadlines, or the quality of work produced isn’t meeting expectations. Knowing all this helps determine decision-making and evaluate a strategy to ensure the objectives set are still aligned with your project goals.
An easy way to simplify and accelerate complicated approval processes is with Canva’s built-in approval workflow system, which streamlines all approvals in one place. Plus, the live comment features allow stakeholders, partners, managers, designers, and clients to easily communicate feedback in real-time, reducing those back and forth emails.
Here is where the success of your work plan comes into play when executed — a place where performance and objectives meet to deliver results.
The purpose of the evaluation is to measure the impact of each task delivered at the end of the project. Learn if the work and results of your team members are effective, and collect valuable insights to help you improve strategies or performance. Part of this process may also include presenting reviews and reports with key takeaways and outcomes to stakeholders and investors directly involved in the project.
Infographics enable you to organize and deliver your data or results beautifully in a visually interesting way. Use this pink and orange futuristic template to add impact to your project presentation.
As you can see, there are several steps in developing a work plan. A visual communication platform like Canva is the perfect solution for work plan management, especially for agencies. Start by creating a team for the project on Canva. Then invite team members and assign roles to them. Plus, with real-time collaboration available for the different types of documents, whether you're goal setting, brainstorming, planning a strategy, or monitoring the progress of your pitch presentation, you can easily invite the assigned team members to work collaboratively and efficiently with you. All while staying on the same page, at the same time.