On the Work Package

This is a pretty controversial template. Some PMs when presented with it, faint at the sight of all the section headings recommended by the commonly available Work Package template.
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> Work Package Template

Others gleefully tap their fingers together at the prospect of creating more detail and more control. The answer, fortunately for the more reasonable of us, lies somewhere in the middle.

Over kill on PRINCE2 Work Packages

Put simply, documenting and communicating a Work Package is a really good idea. After all how can you ask someone to deliver something if you can’t write a brief plan for it? And what happens if it all goes pear shaped and everyone is running for cover and point fingers at each other? How do you measure performance against plan?

The good people at OGC (the makers of PRINCE2) have made mention of the potential problems resulting from requiring too much information in the work package. The PRINCE2 handbook recommends that the “…process needs careful implementation to avoid being over-bureaucratic” and “For small projects … the link between this process and Controlling a Stage (CS) will be much less formal”.

However given the potential ramifications on the team’s morale and the PM’s reputation, I’m going to drive home the point to ensure new project managers, who are trying their best to get their heads around the processes, think before they leap.

The Work Package Template isn’t about creating more work…

How much and what kind of information you require from your team managers is contextual. To find the right balance you really need to understand the project, the organisation(s) involved and the team manager personalities / relationships (both up and down the food chain) to ensure you are customising your Work Package template to suit your team’s actual information requirements and not the other way around.

For example, if you have already established “Standard Operating Procedures” or SOPs in your project for quality checking, project reporting and problem handling and escalation, you don’t really need to reinvent the wheel so you can drop some sections or just reference the relevant SOPs. If you have a small team or a larger experienced team who have been working together well for a number of projects you won’t need to document the work package to within an inch of its life.

Unfortunately the recommended template that has been floating around the internet is a little cumbersome for my liking. In the Work Package Template I’ve added to this article, I’ve retained most of the section titles but added a little more structured and focuses on key “what do I need to know / what is going to hurt me” information at the top and less important information at the bottom of the document.

Compare the two and let me know what you think!

One Response

  1. I just came across your site by accident. The notion of a Work Package is baked into the US DoD Earned Value Management Systems. Work Packages and Planning Packages are at the heart of the Work Breakdown Structure, the Integrated Master Plan and Integrated Master Scheduling (IMP/IMS) program management processes.

    Work Packages produce a single outcome that is needed to satisfy the Accomplishment Criteria for the Significant Accomplishments needed to move the project to the next level of maturity of the system capabilities.

    This is the first time, I;ve heard mention Work Packages outside our Defense and Space work.

    I’ve added this blog to my daily reading list on Google as well.

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