Regardless of the nature of your project, handling unplanned work is a part of every team's reality. Our free Excel template helps you to keep track of these unforeseen tasks.
The contents of the Unplanned Work Log
Field Description and Tips to Complete
Project details and document control
Provide information on the project and document:
- Project Number.
- Project Name.
- Project Manager.
- Project Sponsor.
Enter the user story ID or name.
Description of the work
Write a clear description of the unplanned work.
Person who requested the work
The person who requested the work or who identified that it needs to be done.
Person who did the work
If the work has already been done note down who did it.
Date work requested
The date the work was requested or identified.
We have suggested these statuses, but you can easily change them on the dropdown tab.
Unplanned work statuses:
Unplanned work statuses:
|Open||No action taken yet.|
|Assigned for review||In review to decide if the work should be done or if it has been done what the impact is.|
|Closed no action||No further action needed.|
|Closed added to backlog||This work needs to go into the change control process.|
|Completed||Work is complete no further action.|
We have suggested this list of priorities, but you can easily change them on the dropdown tab.
Unplanned work priorities:
Unplanned work priorities:
|Must do urgent||Something that must be done immediately to progress with the sprint.|
|Must do not urgent||Something that must be done but not immediately.|
|Might be good||An unplanned task that isn't essential, but might be good to have. Review and decide whether to add to the backlog.|
|Routine||Tasks that need to happen, and are routine, but for some reason were not captured in planning.|
Describe the impact
Describe the impact the work will have on the user story, project, sprint, backlog etc.
Note down what the next steps are. For example, 'add to the sprint or product backlog.'
What Causes Unplanned Work?
1. Changes in Project RequirementsSometimes, project requirements can change mid-course due to evolving business needs, customer feedback, or regulatory changes. These changes often lead to unplanned work as teams adjust to new targets, standards, or deliverables.
2. Unexpected Problems or IssuesUnforeseen issues can always arise no matter how well planned. These could be technical problems, issues with a supplier, or unexpected setbacks like team members falling ill. Such issues often result in unplanned work as the team needs to solve them to keep the project on track.
3. Overlooked TasksSome tasks may be inadvertently overlooked or underestimated during the planning phase. These tasks become evident only when the project is underway, leading to unplanned work.
4. Stakeholder RequestsStakeholders may request additional features or changes not initially in the project scope. Accommodating these requests results in unplanned work.
5. Lack of Communication or MiscommunicationPoor communication of project expectations and requirements leads to confusion and errors, thus generating unplanned work.
6. External FactorsFactors outside the team's control, such as market changes, natural disasters, or a global pandemic, can disrupt a project's progress and lead to unplanned work.
While it's impossible to anticipate every instance of unplanned work, knowing these common causes can help teams better prepare for, manage, and prevent some forms of unplanned work. Building a strategy to manage unplanned work can lead to more successful projects and a more efficient and resilient team.
The Problem with Unplanned Work
1. Disruption to Planned ActivitiesUnplanned work, by its very nature, tends to come up unexpectedly and requires immediate attention. This can lead to disruptions in the scheduled work, pushing back timelines and potentially leading to missed deadlines.
2. Resource MisallocationWhen unplanned tasks crop up, resources get diverted to handle them, leaving planned tasks under-resourced. This can lower the efficiency of resource utilization and increase project costs.
3. Increased Stress and BurnoutThe urgency and unpredictability of unplanned work can cause stress among team members. If this becomes a regular occurrence, it could lead to burnout, negatively impacting the team's productivity and morale.
4. Lack of Transparency and AccountabilityWithout a proper tracking system, unplanned work can lead to a lack of transparency about what tasks are being done, by whom, and for what reason. This lack of visibility can make it difficult to hold individuals accountable for their work.
5. Poor Quality of WorkIn the rush to complete unplanned tasks, the quality of work may suffer. Mistakes lead to more unplanned work.
6. Impact on Project OutcomesUltimately, all these factors can compromise the overall quality and outcomes of the project. The project may exceed its timeline or budget, or deliverables may not meet the desired standards or expectations.
Therefore, it is crucial to manage unplanned work effectively. Acknowledging its inevitability and developing a robust strategy to identify, track, prioritize, and address unplanned tasks can help mitigate its negative impacts, ensuring your project stays on track and your team remains productive and motivated.
How to Handle Unplanned Work in Agile ProjectsAgile project management is inherently flexible and adaptive, making it well-suited to handle the uncertainties of unplanned work. Here are several strategies for managing unplanned work within an Agile framework.
1. Regular Backlog RefinementRegularly review and refine the product backlog. This involves re-prioritizing user stories, estimating their size, and planning for potential unplanned work.
2. Incorporate Buffer TimeInclude buffer time in your sprints for potential unplanned work. By leaving some capacity open, you can handle unexpected tasks without overloading your team or jeopardizing scheduled tasks.
3. Use Our Unplanned Work LogTo manage unexpected tasks efficiently, use our Unplanned Work Log. This tool allows you to document and visualize unplanned tasks distinctly from the regular workload. It includes sections to capture the task description, its current status, who is responsible, and its priority level. By utilizing our log, you can foster a greater level of transparency and accountability in your team while obtaining a clear understanding of the impact of these tasks on your overall project.
4. Limit Work in Progress (WIP)Limit the work in progress at any given time to prevent your team from becoming overloaded. This practice, derived from the Kanban method, allows teams to quickly and effectively switch gears to handle unplanned work.
5. Foster Effective CommunicationRegular stand-up meetings (or 'scrums') allow for quick and effective communication between team members, which can help identify and address unplanned work early on. Open and transparent communication can help manage expectations and keep everyone on the same page.
6. Prioritize EffectivelyNot all unplanned work is of equal importance. Use a prioritization method, like MoSCoW (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won't have), to decide what to do.
7. Learn and AdaptAfter each sprint, conduct a retrospective to understand what caused the unplanned work, how it was handled, and how the process can be improved. You can use these insights to adapt your approach in future sprints.
Remember, Agile is about adapting to change and continuously improving. While unplanned work may pose challenges, it also presents an opportunity to learn, evolve, and become more resilient and efficient as a team.