Agreeing to a Schedule: Action plans
Agreeing what the team will do, and who will do it by when, is essential. Unless your team has been given a detailed schedule by a manager or similar, it is recommended using an Action Plan to help identify and agree to responsibilities.
Action Plans help teams put a logical order on what needs to be done, how it should be done, in what order, when it should be done, and who is going to do it. They provide a clear and comprehensive process for generating a schedule, and facilitate team discussion.
- Step 1: Identify all the tasks required to be carried out. The team may choose to do this on sticky notes or using a whiteboard.
- Step 2: Place the tasks in sequential order in terms of timing.
- Step 3: Once the list has been generated, the team should look for any tasks that are missing, and check that the order is correct.
- Step 4: A table with column headings: What, When, Why, Who, How, and With What should be drawn up and the 'What' column filled with the tasks generated in Step 3. It is recommended using a whiteboard to allow collaborative discussion.
- Step 5: The other columns can now be completed. (Details should be added as necessary to help with clarification. For example, if two people are assigned to a task, it may be necessary to nominate one as the lead.)
Documenting the Schedule
Now that definition of a schedule is done for tasks and given team members the responsibility for tasks or
sub-tasks it is possible to think about documenting our decisions.
This is often done using a Gantt chart as shown here. On the side of the diagram are listed all the tasks as per the work breakdown and along the top are the weeks over which the project will be conducted. The columns following the task description often contain start and end dates, as well as the names of team members who have been assigned the task. The horizontal lines show the time that a particular task will be worked on.
Gantt charts are not cast in stone. They are designed to be living documents and updated regularly to show progress.
There are many proprietary tools for creating Gantt charts (e.g. MS-Project) but you can create your own using a spreadsheet.
The proprietary tools automatically help with resource allocation, but if you're allocating tasks manually ensure that each task has adequate resources, and each team member has adequate tasks. Make sure that you haven't omitted a task or overloaded a team member.