Maliasili Reader: 8 Tips on Work Planning from African Organizations

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Tips and Tools

8 Tips from our Partners on Work Planning

“We never used to prioritise work planning, and then got to the point last year where a donor needed it so we managed to sit as program heads and work out what we wanted to do for the year.” -Samantha du Toit, Program Coordinator, South Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO).

Sound familiar!?

Work planning, especially at the organizational level, often falls low on a team’s priority list. But an organization-wide work plan can be transformational for teams, helping ensure their work is aligned to their strategic goals and helping everyone see how their efforts contribute to something greater (i.e. their impact!).

“Now we realise a good work plan has to tie to strategy - it's much more than a plan for the year, instead it keeps you fully aligned.”

Knowing that organizational work plans can be daunting, we reached out to some of our partners who we know do it well and asked them to share their tips with you. Below are organizational work planning tips from Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Honeyguide and SORALO.

1. Keep it simple

  • Our most useful advice: ‘keep it simple.’ We struggled with this initially but now see the value of a simple work plan - we use it. -Grevy’s Zebra Trust

2. Start with your strategy

  • Our work plan comes from our overarching strategy, so if a new activity doesn't fit into one of our four overall goals then we question if we should be doing it. -SORALO

  • We keep our strategic plan in mind - knowing how each activity we carry out contributes towards our Mission. -Grevy’s Zebra Trust

  • We start out by identifying our broader annual targets prior to creating the detailed annual work plan. Not only is this useful for planning, but we also share this narrative document with our donors and partners. -Honeyguide

3. Make it participatory

  • Develop the work plan as a team- each member of your team needs to agree to the activities and know what they are taking responsibility for. -Grevy’s Zebra Trust

  • The session needs to be fully participatory- each department needs to include their entire team in the process. -Grevy’s Zebra Trust

4. Link it to your budget

  • We number our annual work plan activities and link them to annual budget lines. This helps us know the work plan activity/milestone/program costs, which can then be broken down into financial scenarios. -Honeyguide

  • Link the plan to your budget. Knowing which activities are funded and which ones are not is very useful, and makes the plan much more efficient and applicable. -Grevy’s Zebra Trust

5. Put the details somewhere else

  • We keep and manage all of our detailed tasks in Zoho (Task management program) in order to keep the workplan simple, not too detailed. -Honeyguide

  • During our first work planning session, we paid too much attention to the smaller details within the activities, and the work plan was barely used by the team. This year, the work plan is more strategic and higher level and is now being used. -Grevy’s Zebra Trust

6. Review it frequently

  • You’ll want to review it regularly and use it as a reflection tool. Don't be afraid your seniors will judge you if you're behind in certain areas. It's a tool to track progress and to help you reflect. -SORALO

  • Reviewing the work plan can help people think about how they use their time and will push them to ensure their plans tie back to our strategic goals. -SORALO

7. Don’t start from scratch 

  • It was useful to have a work plan template and framework from Maliasili, but it was also good to be brave enough to modify it to our needs. -SORALO

  • We use a simple work plan template in Excel. We use one page per program area, which allows the entire annual work plan to be printed on three A3 pages. -Honeyguide

8. Use it often

  • We found it’s essential to have someone champion the work plan to ensure it is a live working document. -SORALO

  • We use the same work plan tool for reporting to our board each quarter. In order to make it useful to the board, we include an additional quarterly update column with notes and details. -Honeyguide

Use part of your last team meeting of the year to create your work plan for the next year. Make sure it is a goal for the entire team that week - it must be participatory. -Grevy’s Zebra Trust

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Madeleine Traynor

Senior Design, Communications, & Operations Associate, Maliasili

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