In order to support all of the committees involved in JDAI in Massachusetts, these guidelines are offered as a “how to” create a work plan that is usable and helps direct committee members work over the coming year. Through work plans, you break down a process into small, achievable tasks and identify the things you want to accomplish.

Steps to Create a Usable Work Plan

1) Identify the purpose for the work plan.

Work plans are written with different goals in mind based upon local needs, or specific committee objectives. Determine the purpose up front so the committee can prepare properly. Keep in mind that most work plans are for a certain period of time (i.e., 1 year). Work plans can also be the result of strategic planning sessions held at the beginning of a new calendar or fiscal year.  For our purposes, the two to three goals will be for approximately one cycle of JDAI; 24 months.

2) Determine your goal(s) and objectives.

Goals and objectives are related in that they both point to things you hope to accomplish through your work plan. However, remember the differences, too; goals are general and objectives are more specific.

  • Goals should focus on the big picture of your project. List the desired ultimate outcome of your work plan. Keep it broad; for example, to reduce the percentage of Hispanic youth in detention.
  • Objectives should be specific and tangible. In other words, you should be able to check these off your list when you accomplish them. For example, determining the top five offenses which lead to detention for Hispanic youth.
  • Many work plans break down objectives into short-, middle-, and long-term objectives if they vary significantly
  • Objectives are generally written in the active voice and use action verbs with specific meanings (e.g. "plan," "write," "increase," and "measure") instead of verbs with vaguer meanings (e.g. "examine," "understand," "know," etc.).

3) Frame  your work plan goals by "SMART" objectives.

SMART is an acronym used by individuals searching for more tangible, actionable outcomes in work plans.

  • Specific. What exactly are we going to do for whom? Lay out what population you are going to serve and any specific actions you will use to help that population.
  • Measurable. Is it quantifiable and can we measure it? Can you count the results? Remember that a baseline number needs to be established to quantify change. If you don't know enough about secure detention use today, you would have a hard time measuring your results in the future
  • Achievable. Can we get it done in the time allotted with the resources we have available? The objective needs to be realistic given the constraints. In some cases, an expert or authority may need to be consulted to figure out if your work plan objectives are achievable.
  • Relevant. Will this objective have an effect on the desired goal or strategy? Make sure your objectives and methods have a clear, intuitive relationship.
  • Time bound. When will this objective be accomplished, and/or when will we know we are done? Specify a hard end date for the project. Stipulate which, if any, outcomes would cause your project to come to a premature end, with all outcomes having been achieved.

4) Accountability.

Accountability is essential for a good plan. Who is responsible for completing each task? There can be a team of people working on a task but one person has to be answerable to a task being completed on time.

5) Identify milestones if your project is especially large.

Milestones are points throughout the project that highlight meeting certain objectives and reflecting on progress. They can, allow you to look at where you are in the process and make sure you are still on track with the work plan.

6) Use the work plan!

Look over your work plan and decide how you will use your resources and overcome your constraints in order to reach your goals and objectives.

Identify what needs to happen each week or month for you to complete your objectives. Also list steps other people who are a part of your planning process and fellow committee members need to take.



The Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) in Massachusetts works to ensure that “the right youth, is in the right place, for the right reasons.”


This information is provided by the Massachusetts Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative.