The Value Of A Workback Plan To Keep Projects Moving Forward

by | January 15, 2015

Starting at the end of something and working your way backward can seem very counterintuitive. After all, no one starts the race at the finish line – at least, no one who wants to finish with a medal. With success in mind, forward momentum is typically ideal. But when it comes to planning projects or events, there is a lot to be said for outlining the final moments and then mapping the way back to present day.

Save The Date

In case a deadline doesn’t already exist, create one. Most work projects will have an identified due date – but this applies to personal projects as well.

For a business venture, sometimes it is better to aim for a particular month. For example, “launch new blog” could have a goal date of “third week in February”. If the date is a wedding, keep in mind that you probably don’t want to be working on it up until the actually ceremony – so pick a deadline a month or so ahead of time – this also ensures your contractors will have enough time to prepare. Either way, make a choice and commit to it.

Build Your Task List

Whether this is a delegation list for other people to complete, or one you will be tackling individually, it should include all of the steps necessary for the final event to be successful. Try to place them in an order that would fit nicely on a timeline.

For example, picking a venue for the wedding should take priority in a timeline over designing the cake, and deciding on a blog design should happen before writing articles begins.

Then, take stock of how much time exists between now and the deadline. 6 months? A year? With that number in mind, assign a block of time for each task. It should vary depending on how much time is needed and how large that task is estimated to be.

See some sample task lists below. (Disclaimer: For the purpose of this article, these lists are much shorter and more generalized than they would actually need to be.)

  • New Blog Tasks – six weeks out
    • Research new designs – 1 week
    • Decide on a blog design – 1 week
    • Build the blog – 3 weeks
    • Create content – 2 weeks
    • Launch the blog – 1 week
  • Wedding Tasks – 5 months until planning should be complete
    • Pick a venue – 2 months
    • Pick the dress and bridal/groom party attire – 1 month
    • Design and send invitations – 1 month
    • Pick a florist and floral arrangements – 2 weeks
    • Pick a baker and cake design – 2 weeks

Create a Timeline

Take a look at the chart below and see how the information is arranged in a presentation that is easy to read at a glance. A quick look across reveals which tasks will take the longest (and may benefit from some delegation), and a quick reference to the top clearly designates a due date for each task. Note that some of the dates can overlap if needed to complete the project in time and makes sense in the timeline.

Sample Blog Launch Workback Plan

Google Sheets is perfectly functional for this task, and it’s free. Take a look at Marie Poulin’s Generic Project Workback Schedule for a more detailed example.