What is a work plan? (With a template and example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're preparing to launch a new product or coordinate a long-term project, a work plan can help you organise the details into one document. Creating a written work plan encourages you to think through what you want to achieve and break the project into smaller tasks. This is especially helpful for a team project, where several colleagues may want to coordinate their actions and maintain strong communication. In this article, we discuss the three most common types of work plans and the steps you can take to create an effective work plan for your upcoming project.

What is a work plan?

In answer to the question 'What is a work plan?', it's an organisational tool that outlines the steps necessary for a project and designates realistic goals for completion. The purpose is to create a visual reference for goals, objectives, tasks and team members who are responsible for each task or step in the project. The plan includes active engagement and open communication from everyone associated with the project. For complicated projects that include several phases of completion, you can create a work plan for the whole project and individualised work plans that address each phase of the project.

After defining your strategy for success, a work plan template can save time as you move between projects. Your template can have specific prompts for identifying objectives or goals and you can manipulate it to add, remove or substitute team members. List the necessary responsibilities for each department or team and create tasks that support success. An ideal work plan incorporates the following sections:

  • goals or objectives

  • individual or team responsibilities

  • timelines specific to each step

  • an established budget

Related: How to plan a project in 10 simple steps (with tips)

Types of work plans

You can customise different types of work plans to meet the responsibilities of the individuals involved in carrying out the plan. The intended purpose and type of project can change the content of the work plan itself. Identifying the correct details and responsibilities of the project can define team roles, reduce the chances you and your team could go over budget and increase the likelihood of achieving your goal within the allotted period. Consider the following common types of work plans as you decide which work plan to make for your current project:

Employee work plan

This work plan addresses the employees and team members working on the project. It can offer direction and specific tasks for each role involved in the project. Your employees can use this plan to understand their current and future responsibilities and how they relate to their colleagues. Small groups may use this work plan to identify guidelines, timelines and actionable steps to complete the project. Employee work plans may include:

  • the goal of the project

  • a projected budget

  • materials and expenses required for the project

  • an estimated timeline for completion

Manager work plan

The managers of various departments within an organisation may make individual work plans for their department, so they can discuss what their team is doing, track their team's success and create future goals for each department or team. It may include short-term goals and metrics that a manager can use to check progress, such as a detailed budget, performance statistics and information on project progress or department growth. To give this work plan a larger scope to assist project management, it may include:

  • how the project benefits the business

  • detailed lists of costs

  • projected and actual budgets associated with the project

  • statistics that show how the business could benefit (increased profits, visibility or traffic)

How to create a work plan

After you decide what type of work plan best fits your needs, gather input from others involved in the implementation of that work plan. Discuss what a work plan is, why you chose this type of work plan and what you hope to achieve throughout this process. You may decide that you want to create many work plans to define and outline your long-term and short-term goals. Once you know why you want this work plan and have consulted those involved, follow these steps to craft a work plan that helps your team organise their goals:

1. Set goals and objectives

The first step to creating a work plan is to set clear goals and objectives. Your goals ought to focus on the big picture with specific and tangible objectives. For example, if you're launching a new product, the goal may be to drive 50,000 people to the website in the next 12 months. An objective for that goal could be to launch a new social media campaign.

Related: How to write an action plan to help you achieve your goals

2. Establish team responsibilities

Once you've identified the objectives, assign team members to drive those initiatives. If you designate a team to accomplish individual objectives, assign a leader to keep the team on track. If the project is large and complex with many teams, assign hierarchy levels. Here, a project manager could oversee several team leaders, meeting with only those individuals and focusing on the overall progress to keep a project running according to schedule.

3. Set project timelines

Timelines are essential for keeping team members on task and expenses down. Set an attainable amount of time to achieve your goal and remain open to changing your team's strategy if you see an opportunity to use a more effective approach. Consider using the guidelines for SMART goals to create your work plan, which stands for:

  • Specific: Your goals, objectives and actionable steps are clear and specific.

  • Measurable: It has to be apparent when you attain your goals.

  • Attainable: Your goals and objectives are something your team can realistically accomplish within the designated time frame.

  • Relevant: Align the goal, objectives and tasks with your values and long-term goals.

  • Time-based: Your plan has a realistic end date that allows you to prioritise your time.

Related: How to develop SMART goals

4. Establish a budget

Budgeting ends the process, as part of your work plan may include getting quotes from third-party vendors. Your budget ought to break down costs and assign different tasks to the individual teams. Each time a team reaches a new milestone or accomplishes an objective, you can review your expenses and determine if the team is on budget. You can reallocate resources from other areas or reschedule if the team is behind schedule or over budget. A detailed work plan allows you to see where your team needs more money or time and you can alter plans accordingly.

Work plan template

Customise the content of your work plan to match the individuals or teams using it. Remember to keep your goals and objectives attainable, especially when assigning tasks for the various roles on your plan. Format your template with plain language and structure it with direct labels. The following work plan template can assist you as you create your own work plan to suit your team's needs:

[Project title]

Introduction:

[In a brief paragraph, list a problem or challenge that your business is facing, a goal for solving the problem, a definition of your solution, parameters for measuring your success and an explanation of how this project can solve your company's problem or challenge.]

Goal:

[State your goal, using the SMART goals guideline. Repeat this stage if you have several goals.]

  • Objectives: [List actionable tasks that help achieve this goal.]

  • Timeline: [Define a reasonable timeline to complete these objectives.]

  • Resources: [List the money, tools and department resources necessary to complete these objectives.]

  • Roles: [Clearly define the responsibilities of each individual involved in this project.]

  • Strategy: [List any minor tasks required to complete your objectives.]

Work plan example

Consider this example as you craft your own work plan.

Example:

Project title:

Marketing work plan

Introduction:

While sales remain steady, we've been unable to expand due to a lack of new customers. We plan to increase our social media presence to increase visibility and gain new customers. We plan to update our website and social media profiles and begin a campaign that involves weekly social media posts. Increasing our social media presence and visibility can introduce potential customers to what our business can offer them.

Goal:

Increase Internet content quantity with weekly posts and updated content for this year's first quarter.

  • Objectives: Weekly posts to Facebook and Instagram.

  • Timeline: Post to Facebook every Tuesday and Instagram every Thursday.

  • Resources: John, Jane and Richard are going to work together to create infographics, take photos of our business and post to Facebook and Instagram each week.

  • Roles: John is going to create monthly updates and holiday posts, Jane is going to take photos of merchandise and Richard is going to craft weekly posts using the content from John and Jane.

  • Strategy: Take note of any promotional discounts and temporary decorations.


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