2.2.1  Developing and using work plans

A work plan is a document developed by the manager and staff, which lists all planned activities, the date on which they will occur or by which they will be accomplished, the resources they will require, and the person who is responsible for carrying them out. Such a document is a valuable tool for efficient and effective programme implementation, and should be used regularly and consistently as a monitoring tool at all levels.

Basically, there are two types of plans:

  • a.the strategic (long-term) plan
  • b.the annual (work) plan.

Strategic (long-term) plans

A strategic plan is a well-developed document that determines what an organisation intends to be in the future, and how it will get there. It is the process by which the organisation assesses its current situation and decides how to scale up to achieve its vision. Strategic planning is the way in which it directs its efforts and resources towards what is truly important for the sector. Strategic planning is carried out at all levels.

Annual (work) plans

Work plans (also known as operational plans) are distinguished from long-term plans in that they show how the broader objectives, priorities and targets of the strategic plan will be translated into practical activities, which will then be carried out over a much shorter time period (anywhere from a week to a year). However, there should be complete harmony between the strategic objectives and the annual targets.

The annual plan is sometimes divided into two: the core and the comprehensive plan. The core plan is the summarised form of a plan which mainly focuses on annual targets, major objectives, and major activities, while the comprehensive plan deals with detailed activities, including time of execution and cost. It can be cascaded to monthly, weekly and daily tasks. Note that, in the Ethiopian health sector context, currently all health services and programmes are integrated and harmonised, so there is no room for parallel or vertical plans. In the planning process, you need to ensure that family planning is integrated into other health programmes.

Look at Box 2.1 for a better understanding of the work planning process; also refer to the Health Management, Ethics and Research Module.

Box 2.1  Key points to remember in the work planning process

To get the greatest benefit from work plans and the work planning process, you need to understand:

  • the steps in the work planning process and who should be involved
  • how to develop an annual work plan
  • how an integrated and aligned annual work plan should be linked with monitoring and evaluation
  • techniques that can be used to design integrated work plans for individual service delivery sites or staff members
  • the benefits of work planning, as well as the importance of keeping the process flexible to respond to changes throughout the course of the programme.

Cascading objectives

One way to develop short-term work plans is to divide the yearly objectives into quarterly or monthly targets, so that detailed activities are identified and costed. To determine these targets, begin by looking at the yearly objectives.

  • Your health post, in collaboration with the woreda Health Office, has set objectives to provide family planning information and education to 1,000 potential acceptors in your kebele during the first year of service delivery. How can you cascade this into short-term targets?

  • In this case, first divide the 1,000 potential acceptors by 12 months to get a monthly target for that site. Next, divide the number of potential acceptors to be visited each month by the number of Health Extension Practitioners at the service site, so that each Health Extension Practitioner will know how many people she will need to visit each month. Then, list down all possible activities that can be executed during the period and who would be responsible for each activity.

    Remember that this target can be further divided by the number of working days per month and put on a calendar, so that each Health Extension Practitioner will have a work plan to use on a daily basis.

In this way, you can break down large overall objectives into smaller, more manageable units that enable you to develop a monthly work plan more easily, and to distribute the workload more equitably.

Definitions of objectives and targets

Although there are many definitions for objectives and targets, for the purposes of this discussion and the examples shown here, the distinction between objectives and targets is defined as follows.

An objective shows the anticipated results of the work conducted at one or more service delivery sites, and reflects the impact or changes that are expected in the population covered by this programme. Objectives should be SMART (see Box 2.2). and refer to the measurable results that are expected in a designated population within a specified period of time Usually there will be several objectives relating to one programme goal.

Box 2.2  SMART objectives

An example of an objective: To recruit 5,000 new acceptors in 10 kebeles by the end of the first year.

SMART is not a word, but an acronym (or combination of initial letters) representing:

  S  Specific   M  Measurable   A  Achievable   R  Reliable   T  Time bounded.

Accordingly, the above objective is SMART because it is specific to recruiting, measurable in terms of recruiting 5,000 new acceptors, achievable and reliable, as it can be executed within a given period of time, that is by the end of the first year.

Targets

Targets restate programme objectives for service delivery workers in numerical terms. They state the expected results and/or the intended activities of each service delivery component of the programme over a short time period, such as a quarter (three months), one month, or a week. Look at Box 2.3 for some examples of set targets. Keep in mind that targets serve three major purposes:

  • Planning a programme.
  • Motivating staff towards achievement.
  • Guiding the monitoring and evaluation process.

Box 2.3  Examples of SMART targets

An example of an annual target for a specific service delivery site: To achieve an average of 83 new acceptors per month over the next 12 months in the kebele.

An example of an annual target for a supervisor: To conduct supervisory visits to 10 Health Extension Practitioners each month of the year.

An example of a monthly target for Health Extension Practitioners: To provide information and education to 400 couples in three communities over the next month.

An example of a monthly target for Health Extension Practitioners: To locate and interview 15 clients each month who have dropped out of the programme in order to find out the reason why they have dropped out.

Developing monthly work plans

Monthly work plans should be developed and used at all levels of a programme or organisation. They are particularly useful for Health Extension Practitioners and supervisors. The activities in work plans are based on the annual plan, which has been developed at woreda level, but also includes more detailed information on activities, such as which villages and households are to be visited, the timing of these visits, and the dates of the supervisory visits, holidays, self-assessment sessions and training.

Summarising activities in a Gantt chart

Once the work plan is completed, it is important to draw up a summary chart. This provides an important reference which can be used by all staff members, and communicates in a concise way what the project will do and when it will do it. This summary is called a Gantt chart and you can see an example in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1  Sample Gantt chart with months marked in the Ethiopian calendar (EFY is the Ethiopian Fiscal Year).

Family planning implementation schedule for EFY 2003, X health post, Y woreda.
TargetActivityImplementation PeriodResponsible personRemarks
HamNehMskTikmHidTahsTirYekMegMiazGinSene
Provide information and adviceaXXXDemeshiIn collaboration with local NGOs
bXXXXXKolole
cXXXFeyise

A Gantt chart typically includes the following components:

  • A column that lists major activities.
  • Columns that mark a fixed period of time (days, weeks, months, years), showing when the activities will occur.
  • A column that lists the person or people responsible for completing the activity.

2.2  Family planning programme management

2.2.2  Monitoring and evaluation