The purpose of the project plan is to control a project. In this article, we introduce a simple and effective way to start your plan and guarantee success.
In 3 Reasons for Project Failure, I identified the common causes of project failure: poor project planning, a weak business case, and ineffective top-level management involvement.
I also aim to dispel the myth that the project plan is simply a schedule plan or Gantt chart showing project activities along a timeline.
The Project Plan
The purpose of the project plan is to control a project. Consequently, it should not be seen as a document, but rather the basis for managing project progress. Planning is an all-encompassing and iterative process that the project manager uses to manage work on a day-to-day basis. Accordingly, the project planning process starts with business objectives and ends with a detailed project plan for cost, schedule, and resources.
Clear definition of goals is the key to success. – Edison Montgomery
When you start planning for a new project, you first need to map out the entire project in summary. Do this early with the executive project sponsor and other key stakeholders. Then prepare a detailed project plan for (at least) the next stage of the project.
Schedule plans prepared by a project manager alone are worthless!
The outline process described below describes what is needed for the summary plan. Likewise, we construct the next stage plan using the same methods, except it is worked out in more detail. And remember, this should be produced by the person or group doing the work and not necessarily the project manager!
The project plan will evolve, starting with the key business aims, scope, and key deliverables, and culminating with the summary schedule plan. The initial plan comprises:
- Identification of the key deliverables and dependencies between these and other projects.
- A breakdown of the project into manageable chunks based on the key deliverables / products and project stages.
- A summary schedule plan of the entire project.
- A detailed project plan or schedule of the next stage that also includes costs and resource requirements.
Scope and objectives
Defining the scope and objectives of a project are hugely important. Not only are you defining the project, i.e., the why, what, who and how, but also establishing your credibility and bringing senior people together to work as a committed team.
How you do this is largely a matter of personal choice. My preference is to define the project in an interactive workshop environment to establish the following.
- The business goals the project intends to meet.
- How the project supports business strategy.
- The actual work to be undertaken.
- Aspects that are specifically excluded from the project.
- Interdependencies with other projects.
- Any boundaries.