HOW TO ‘PLAN YOUR WORK’
Last week we explored the impact that poor planning and pitiable perseverance by one employee or colleague can have on a team’s overall productivity. Like cogs in the machinery, while it may not seem that one faulty cog can do much harm, it actually can hinder the entire machinery and shut down production.
The best managers know that the key to success lies in proper planning. Creating a plan is the first step in undertaking any kind of project. Often planning is ignored by leaders who favor ‘just getting started on the work’. However, those leaders may fail to realize how planning saves time and money and can sidestep problems and pitfalls. Here are some simple, practical steps in planning your work.
Step 1 – Identify goals
First, establish goals. A good rule of thumb for goal-setting is that goals should be SMART. The acronym SMART has a number of slightly different definitions that cumulatively provide a comprehensive definition for goal setting:
- S – specific, significant, stretching
- M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
- A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
- R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
- T – time-based, timely, tangible, trackable
Step 2 – Set specifications
Once the goals are set, the next step is to determine the nature and scope of the project. If this stage is not performed well, it is unlikely that the project will be successful in meeting the business’ needs. Key to this process is having a solid understanding of the business environment and ensuring all necessary controls are incorporated into the project. This step should include:
- Analyzing the business needs and requirements in measurable goals;
- Reviewing current operations;
- Conducting a financial analysis of the costs and benefits including a tentative budget
- Doing a stakeholder analysis (anyone involved with the project such as the targeted audience/users and support personnel)
- Outlining in writing the project elements including costs, tasks, deliverables, and schedule
Step 3 – Sketch the Details
Once the specifications have been broadly outlined, the project should be broken down in detail in writing. The primary purpose is to plan time, cost and resources adequately in order to estimate the work needed and to effectively manage risk during execution. This step generally consists of:
- developing a scope statement
- selecting a team and identifying roles and responsibilities
- identifying specific deliverables
- creating the work breakdown structure
- identifying the activities needed to complete those deliverables
- organizing activities in their logical sequence
- estimating the resource requirements for the activities
- estimating time and cost for activities
- developing a schedule
- estimating the budget and identifying materials needed
- planning for risks
- obtaining formal approval to begin work
For those that work on many projects and tasks simultaneously, it is good to follow the same steps, in abbreviated form, to ensure maximum productivity without anything falling through the cracks. There are a number of project management software programs that help managers and teams plan – and ultimately track (more about that next week) – projects. Some of the better programs include Microsoft’s Project, Adobe’s Project Planner-PE, Wrike, and Inloox which is project planning software that is fully integrated into Outlook.
Once these steps have been done and you have ‘Planned the Work,’ it is time to ‘Work the Plan.’ Next week, we’ll take a look at the steps of how to put a plan into action and ensure that everyone consistently works the plan.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Reduce your plan to writing. The moment you complete this, you will have definitely given concrete form to the intangible desire.” Napoleon Hill
© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.