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Work Planning Process

The work planning process structure evolved from research, discussion, and review by means of a successive series of "Plan, Do, Study, Act" (PDSA) cycles. The structure is based on the concepts of manager as mentor and the achievement of "mastery" levels by individual staff members. It emphasizes the fact that staff clearly have a crucial understanding of the work that needs to be done, and how their individual or group effort contributes to the system. The process is structured so that it is adaptable to both individual and group work planning situations.

What is work planning?

Work planning is an innovative approach to accomplishing the work in an organization, and to managing the staff who perform that work. It assumes that all staff members approach their work with a common and consistent desire to do their best.

Work planning provides a way of coordinating the work that needs to be done with an emphasis on continuous improvement and innovation. Its hallmarks are collegiality and cooperation, where collective responsibility is shared by each member of a group with minimal supervision from above. The group works and acts together willingly for a common purpose or benefit to accomplish the aim of the system.

In order to function effectively, it is essential for all staff in an organization to have a clear understanding of the organization's overall strategic direction. This description, or "work plan," provides the basis for empowering staff members to participate in planning how their work is best accomplished with available capital and human resources.

The work plan itself is a written statement which identifies the work which needs to be accomplished by an individual staff member in order to successfully achieve the aims of their work group and the organization. It is based on an assessment of customer needs. It is accomplished through a continuous series of Plan, Do, Study, Act cycles which involve information gathering as well as making and learning from mistakes. It makes use of available "expert knowledge" and attempts to maximize the quality of work which is done.

A "top down" approach

Work plan development at various levels of the organization begins with an identification of the work group's customers, both internal and external if applicable. It is important that the development of these plans is a participatory process which uses group "brainstorming" as a technique for defining and refining the plan.

The structure of an organization's work plans flow from senior management who, in conjunction with mid-level managers, determine the work that needs to be accomplished within the organization. Mid-level managers in turn develop work plans with their line managers, who in turn develop work plans with their groups as well as with individual staff members in those groups.

Line managers ultimately bring an understanding gained from their management work planning processes along with their special awareness of customer needs to their own work groups. This understanding provides a base for identifying the work that needs to be accomplished by the group. The manager and work group then establish and refine a group's work plan and identify how feedback can be obtained to provide data needed for further improvement of the plan. Quality Improvement Team (QIT) tools are employed to assist in the data review process.

An ongoing process

Work planning is an ongoing process between manager and staff member. The process is adaptable to all job families in ITD. An individual's work plan evolves from the shared development of a work plan for a work group, and then from one-on-one meetings between staff member and manager on a basis frequent enough to provide the staff member with effective mentoring and support. Though the frequency of work plan review is flexible and negotiated by individual staff members and their managers, work planning review and refinement is recommended at least three times a year, or whenever there are major changes in the organization's customer needs.

The work plan is based on a mutual understanding of what the job is. Each staff member needs to understand what the critical success factors are which impact their individual work plan as well as the critical success factors for the work plan developed by their group. It is also important that the staff member understand what the indicators are for success, what the barriers to success may be, and what tools for success are needed. In order to be understood and achievable, the work plan needs to include criteria for measuring success as well as defining the roles of both staff member and manager in achieving the plan's goals and furthering the aim of the system.

The work plan helps to "drive out fear" in an organization, and provides the foundation for a positive and mutually respectful working relationship between the staff member and manager by virtue of its negotiated development, its provision for periodic review and feedback, and its emphasis on support and mentoring rather than inspection and subjective appraisal.

The work plan provides for the enhancement of human capital. It identifies options for career development and training in needed skill areas. It fosters improvements in the work environment, and is designed to facilitate communication between staff member and manager as well as team members developing other components of a working group's work plan. Though it is important for work planning to ultimately provide the basis for compensation, this "link" can be introduced into the work planning process over a period of time as an organization's overall work planning process matures and evolves. The key to success in work planning is customer involvement and the acceptance of its evolutionary nature along with the organization's dedication to continuous improvement and the pursuit of quality in the daily work lives of its staff.

If you would like additional information from the Information Technology Division's Work Planning & Compensation Task Force, you can reach the group by sending e-mail to:

Last updated 16 February by