Everything starts with proper planning
A work plan is an important tool that helps you manage your projects, assign tasks, manage your workflow and track the various components, milestones and deadlines, it often has a duration of six to 12 months, based on the specific needs within the company.
Implementing work plans helps articulate strategies around employees to improve team member focus and drive. Review the following key components when beginning laying down your plans to ensure you don’t overlook important details.
- Define goals and objectives
- Organize teams and leadership
- Establish project timelines
- Set project budget
- Quality assurance and control
How to create a work plan?
Businesses use a work plan to organize projects, it gives everyone on the team the project framework and the background. Also, goals and timelines are defined for the overall project. A work plan then breaks down into tasks, and assigns different items to different project members, giving them individual timelines.
A well-written work plan enables a project manager to oversee the big picture while managing smaller project components. When creating a work plan for your next project, incorporate common sections.
- Introduction and background
- Project scope and team
- Schedule and timelines
- Budget planning and monitoring
- Quality control and continuity plan
- Secondary plans for some projects
Technology is an integral part of the 21st-century business universe. A manager may have to oversee IT, engineering, Internet, or electronics work, even if he or she has limited technical knowledge. Managers can achieve this by using many of the professions they would use in non-technical fields such as picking the best people, setting the criteria for success, and planning accurately.
Scheduling: Study your calendar and adapt to change. Constantly.
We suggest you constantly study your calendar. It is important to organize all around that particular anything you want to create or make happen. It is important to find the right time and the most convenient day in your calendar. Tasks must flow, and you should ride and enjoy as issues unfold.
Remember you need to break down work in the best way possible, making it difficult not to achieve your goals. Think about priorities and dependencies. Which are blocking tasks and solve them as early as possible not to block your further subjects.
Resource allocation is key to performance. Be ready to face some important changes, perhaps they might even happen constantly on a daily basis. So think all this thoroughly, have a morning routine, and study your calendar, constantly, meaning every day. And within the day, study the possibilities in your agenda, how can you accelerate or pace the workflow.
Once you have scheduled the work is time to think about its distribution. Not everyone works at the same pace or enjoys fast-paced work, be ready to change gears. A great leader empowers others to self-organize.
How to even out and properly distribute your workload
To evenly distribute the workload you can start by prioritizing skills and availability. Once this is settled move forward distributing blocking tasks first. Allow some space to be flexible and ready to adapt to any possible or sudden change.
We live in an era of immediate reaction and sometimes we find ourselves doing a lot of multitasking like an octopus but our brains are wired to focus on a single task. You might thrive doing several things at the time and maybe get away with it. Women are particularly good at this, but being good at it only means that she would’ve been excellent if she was able to concentrate on one thing at a time. Our position about multitasking is to throw it out!
There are a wide variety of time tracking tools in the market designed to keep projects on track. Among the most popular Planless.io, Harvest, Tempo, Clockify, and Toggl... we strongly suggest you use time tracking software so you can have a certain level of visibility of the assets allocated on each part of the project.
A very important aspect to develop a sense of fairness among the team members is to even out all the workload so none gets to feel too overwhelmed while others are freeriding,
Don’t forget to add meetings and days off to your calendar.
Setting your priorities. First things first!
Two always follow number one, except on the 21st where the one comes afterward.
Prioritizing work is key to success and having a methodology in place will help you achieve it.
Among the most known methods to set priorities, we can find RICE, Value vs. effort, the Kano model, story mapping, and the Moscow method.
RICE scoring model is a prioritization framework designed to help product managers determine which products, features, and other initiatives to put on their roadmaps by scoring these items according to four factors. These factors form the acronym RICE which stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort.
The Value and Effort concept is the reflection of Lean Prioritization. The lean Prioritization approach is represented with a simple 2×2 product prioritization matrix. It helps in decision-making and identifying what is important or risky and where to direct the efforts.
Comparing the Value and Effort combination helps to prioritize tasks better and choose the most important ones: Value shows which business value the feature can bring to your product or your business; Effort measures the resources needed to complete the task.
The Kano Model (pronounced “Kah-no”) is an approach to prioritize work on a roadmap based on the degree each item is more likely to satisfy customers. teams can weigh a high-satisfaction item against its costs to implement, to determine whether or not adding it to the roadmap is a strategically sound decision.
Story mapping is a method for arranging user stories to create a more holistic view of how they fit into the overall user experience. Usually, the entire team takes part in identifying and agreeing on the primary steps of the user journey and then assigning user stories beneath them.
The acronym, Moscow, stands for 4 different categories of initiatives: must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and will not have at this time. Sometimes, the “W” in MoSCoW is used to stand for “wish” instead of “will not have right now.”
It’s important you find a method that suits your activity to give a proper order to your tasks, We recommend not to settle with a single method... you can get creative and use a combination of all of the above methods.
Once tasks are properly prioritized is important to track how long we take to complete them.
Follow the needle as it changes the quadrant
We can use different methods to track the time worked. The important thing is to make accurate estimates. This is especially relevant to better manage the team. We strongly suggest you create records so you can improve how you work.
But estimations are best guesses. So use ranged efforts, minimums and maximums when planning work so you can take into account the uncertainty of estimations.
For time tracking there are also a number of tools and gadgets available. One fun example is TIMEFLIP2; a gadget designed to make logging time an intuitive and enjoyable task. The gadget is powered by a mobile app and a web service to store, process, and export time data.
Tracking work time is often seen as managers watching their employees. But knowing how much time people really spend on tasks will allow for better estimations in the future.
On top of that, it allows you to know if you’re on track with your budgets.
Once you have decided how you’re going to keep track of your time, we can move on to explore the possibilities.
Availabilities: Time is not a continuum
Look and take into account your team’s availability. They may have different working and more performing hours compared to yours.
Some people are better off working early in the morning like small birds, others are late owls but my favorite kind of workers I have found are Lions and Bees. Lion works willingly when they’re up to it while bees work constantly with great attitude and disposition until they die. If by any lucky strike you find one of the last two examples be careful not to wear them off or burn them out.
Another critical detail to consider is days off, you must respect your executive premises for optimal performance and leave some space for rest and reset.
Also if someone needs one morning of the week to schedule recurring meetings, this may actually help the organization. Also it is only natural to need a medical consultation. Flexibility with some boundaries of respect for the tasks and deadlines allows people to work more efficiently… don’t hesitate to propose a shared calendar where each team member might post some busy hours outside the workspace.
The following aspect concerns only businesses having employees abroad. Be careful to consider their particular time zones, holidays, sick leave regulations, and their personal recurring meetings/events.
Bullet eye on deadlines
Once you have performed a great work plan, it’s time for Planning towards your deadlines, unfolding in practice meaning start working on the plan. .
Updating constantly your planning is one thing but you should also be able to manage and anticipate risks or roadblocks you might encounter to not have your plan ruined at every obstacle.
Try, if possible, to make deadlines flexible instead of fixed in order to give yourself more breathing room.
Another important part to hit your deadline is tracking progress. Changing regularly the status of each accomplished task and updating every day the status of the plan will allow you to know if you’re still on target or if adjustments are needed.
Now, the last thing you can (should) do is to learn from previous occurrences. Learn from your mistakes and that will allow you to better adjust your future deadlines.
The Seeds of Delay: Effort and Uncertainty
All projects, despite the size, scope, or complexity, are burdened by two key factors: effort and uncertainty. This phenomenon is best expressed in well known, time tested adages:
Parkinson's Law, speaking to the effort, tells us that "work expands to fill the space allotted".
Murphy's Law, speaking to uncertainty, tells us that "whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and most likely at the worst possible time".
This is the reality faced by all project manager.No matter how much time you have for a project, it will likely be consumed, and no matter how well you plan, eventually, you will always be faced with the "unexpected".
So, if work always expands to fill the space assigned, and whatever can go wrong WILL go wrong, the only thing you can do is prepare yourself. You don't have to be a victim of effort and uncertainty - you can take charge - in four easy steps:
- Start Projects with Realistic Deadlines
Whether mandated or self-imposed, deadlines bring clarity to a project.
For the customer, deadlines set expectations for product delivery.
For the project team member, deadlines set expectations for work effort and performance.
For the project manager, deadlines create a time-bound framework for management, providing working goals, benchmarks, and milestones.
The value of a project is determined by the business need, and it is the project value that should drive the project.
- Learn to Expect the Unexpected
To a certain extent, "project delays" are quite common and to be "expected". The "unexpected" nature of the "project delay" relates not to possibility, but to the type, source, probability, and timing.
Certain types of delays are highly predictable for example late delivery from outside sources and can be factored into the schedule before project work begins. Other types of delays may be foreseeable, but cannot reasonably be factored into the schedule in advance.
If every possible delay was factored into a planned schedule, planning would take too long, projects would be deemed too lengthy and costly, and might risk never being approved.
Predictable delays are those deemed likely by circumstance and experience and thus can be factored into the project via a documented risk management plan.
When that plan is prepared, risks can be identified and evaluated to determine probable delays and potential mitigating action.
If the predicted delays do come to pass, the risk management plan will provide a pre-planned course of action.
Unexpected delays are those that were generally not foreseeable and therefore are not factored into the risk management plan. That does not mean you cannot be prepared to act … more to read in the coming up post on Risk management.
- Be Proactive to Minimize the "Unexpected"
- Be Aware. Every project has its own rhythm and flow. Using your knowledge of project goals, priorities, and project team dynamics, you can pick up on the warning signs of pending delays, and you will be in a better position to make the tough decisions.
- Schedule Wisely. Unexpected delays can be minimized through strategic scheduling. Every project should begin with a reasoned, workable project schedule incorporating identified dependencies, and benchmarks.
- Follow a Process. Every project should be managed with established, tested procedures for timely, meaningful status reporting, whether formal or informal, providing key information to identify missed deadlines and potential project delays.
- Communicate Often. Communication is a key element of project success, essential for managing customer expectations and related conflicts. When facing project delays, every project manager must be able to communicate effectively with customers, relying on strong relationships to work through related issues and problems to salvage the project.
- Act to Mitigate the “Damage” Caused by Delays
What can you do to manage project "delays" once they occur?
- Acknowledge the missed deadline and resulting delay as soon as possible. When project problems first appear, you must act quickly to avoid project delays whenever possible. But, once a deadline can't be met, and the delay seems inevitable, you must also act quickly to manage the consequences. Accept the facts, accept the responsibility, avoid pointing fingers / blaming, and get ready to react.
- Gather the right resources. In order to properly manage a project delay, you must bring the necessary resources in order to analyze the problem and make appropriate decisions.
Depending on the project and the nature of the delay, these resources can include your project sponsor, steering committee, relevant technical specialists, vendors, customers, and other key decision-makers.
- Consider the consequences. Delays and missed deadlines can be accepted as long as the value of the project exceeds the consequences of the delay. In all likelihood, delays will impact project costs, resource availability, customer relationships, and related business needs. On the other hand, delays also present opportunities for project refinement, to re-think decisions that may have led to problems, take advantage of changing business circumstances, and possibly improve project deliverables. These positive consequences must be identified along with the negatives, to create a full picture of the delay, and to minimize negative impact, while maximizing opportunity.
- Identify and evaluate the alternatives. Once consequences are fully analyzed, alternative remedies must be examined and vetted.
Depending upon needs and circumstances, multiple solutions are possible, including extending project deadlines, modifying deliverables, retaining additional resources, or changing project scope.
- Communicate, negotiate and decide. Once alternative remedies have been identified, acceptance and approval must be obtained from all key project stakeholders.
In order to ensure informed consent, a complete and revised project plan must be developed, incorporating the delayed timeline and all related contingencies. In addition, the delay must be explained and justified as needed, specifying causes, repercussions, and benefits.
Whenever a delay is requested, it is important that the approving stakeholders maintain confidence in the project and the project team.
Problems should not be sugar-coated. It is best to admit to any errors in judgment or planning to show that lessons have been learned, corrective action has been taken, and the project is still viable.
We got the most critical information about time management already explained if by any means you have some questions or commentaries please don't hesitate to raise them we are always happy to hear your feedback email us at email@example.com
To more points left to develop here, in time management always think about recurring meetings and events so you can block time for those and manage your time properly.
Effective meeting and greeting
The five main reasons for meetings are decision making, problem-solving, coordination, alignment, and relationship building.
In organizations filled with meetings, you can eliminate at least 50% of the collective time spent in meetings.
There are two ways to attack the meeting disease. You can reduce the number of meetings and the length of meetings. Here are the best practices for each strategy.
Clear and focused agendas. Before a meeting, ensure someone has created and sent out a clear and focused agenda. The agenda should outline the purpose of the meeting, time frames for agenda topics, and the desired output of the meeting like decisions, plans, next steps, consensus.
Furthermore, once the meeting begins, go over the agenda again and ask if there are any requested additions or questions.
When you schedule a meeting, be clear about what type of meeting it is and the expected outcomes. And, kickoff the meeting repeating the agenda and expected results.
Does a decision need to be made? Does a problem have to be solved? Is information being shared? Is input expected from the bottom up?
Reduce the scheduled length of meetings. You can reduce many of those 1-hour meetings to 30 minutes or less. Just like work fills time, conversation fills the meeting time. Try time boxing meetings and see how much more productive you can be.
Keep on task. Tangents are the virus within meetings. All of a sudden, you find yourself 50 miles off course from the actual agenda of the meeting. When this happens, you have to acknowledge you’re off the agenda.
At this point, you either bring the meeting back to the topic, time box the tangent discussion, or parking lot the tangent for future discussion.
We’ve all heard the useful “let’s sideline that topic for another discussion and get back to the agenda.”
Stand-up meetings. Some organizations only conduct stand-up meetings, where everyone has to stand up the entire meeting. The theory is it keeps people focused, brief, and on task.
Speedup the buildup. So much of a meeting is a regurgitation of facts or context that is either already known by everyone or takes too long in the delivery of by the presenter. To keep on task, remind people to be brief, that there are only a few minutes more for the agenda topic, or to wrap it up in the next minute.
Wrap it up The most important part of a meeting is the outcome. Often, meetings end like a feather drifting in the wind. Don’t let this happen.
Always make sure everyone is in agreement on the next steps, the decisions made, or whatever the outcome of the meeting is. And, follow it up with email notes, so everyone is on the same page and understands the necessary follow-up.
Now that we know how to best manage meetings from our perspective allow us to develop a little more on the subject of emergencies.
Emergencies: Expecting the unexpected
Uncertainty is an intrinsic part of all projects. The way in which the Project Manager and his team manage the emergency and the change seriously affects the activities and the very success of the project.2
All projects have a level of uncertainty. Otherwise, no figure would be needed to manage risks and emergencies. This is why most clever Project Managers structure the projects in such a way as to predict uncertainty and change rather than looking for ways to avoid unexpected surprises. When dealing with an emergency, it’s important to manage it carefully. Here are the main best way to deal with emergencies:
- Identify needs. Make sure that the requirements are clear and that there is no other way around it. Confirm it REALLY is an emergency.
- Identify impacts. Once confirmed, you need to understand what impact this will have. Define Who and What will be impacted. Often this may create delays for many other tasks that just the ones that seem the most obvious ones.
- Resources availability. Identifying who is available and when and defining which teammates would be the best to tackle the emergency would reduce the impacts.
- Update the plan. Diving in, head first, tackling the emergency can be OK if it’s quick and will have almost no impact. But if it’s not, start by updating your plan and planning. By having well defined the impacts and resources before, you will be able to re-plan everything that will be impacted.
- Track progress. Emergencies are to be monitored carefully. If not, that’s were things can go really wrong. Always keep track of progress on emergencies and if things are going south, restart from the top of this list.
Time management is a difficult exercise that most people don’t do properly.
At Planless.io we understood that a long time ago and we like to say that Planning work is humanly impossible.
There are simply too many variables and too many possibilities to take into account. So people just decide to not plan and manage their time and just try to move things forward.
If you’re curious about our take on how to solve all of these time management, resources allocation, workload management and planning issues, get a look here: https://planless.io