Knowing how to create a Project Management Plan is tricky. The size of the project is not important. People mistakenly think that longer project plans are better than shorter ones. They think the plan’s word count reflects the amount of thinking that’s gone into the document. The opposite is usually true. In our 25+ years of managing projects, we’ve found that the more words in the project plan the less thinking has gone into it.
Here we’ll discuss what a good Project Management Plan should have in it and we’ll provide you with the tools to create one. If you have project managers reporting to you, we’ll give you information to let the PMs know what you want from their Project Management Plans. All the plans should follow the same general structure. Each project manager can make adjustments to their plan based on the scale and scope of their project(s). Project Planning Main Page
Here is a video that shows you how NOT to start a Project Management Plan.
Project Management Plan: Size
The Project Management Plan doesn’t have to be a long document but it must cover some very important elements. The vital elements are the deliverables the project will produce and how they will be measured. The first step is the hard part. Easier elements of the project plan are the schedule, budget, risk analysis, quality control, resource requirements and product metrics and specifications.
Project Management Plan: Elements
The sections of the Project Management Plan must detail how much project management the PM is going to do in each of the major areas. In the first section, the project manager must detail how he/she is going to manage the scope definition and scope change processes. The project manager lays out the process of defining the scope. That includes who will be involved, what techniques they will use and how long the process should take. They also define the procedure for making changes to the scope. This is one or two sentences about who will have the authority to approve changes and what documentation is required.
The project manager should also have plans for the project schedule, budget, risks, quality control, rsources and procurement management. In each of those areas, he/she should identify who is going to do these activities and what techniques they will use. The Project Management Plan may specify that the PM is not going to do any quality control or risk management because of the unique requirements or limitations of this particular project. That’s okay. There’s no sense in overburdening small projects with too many project management processes. A key element of the Project Management Plan is deciding what you’re not going to do.
The project sponsor should review these elements of the Project Management Plan to ensure that adequate controls are in place. They should include information on the frequency and level of detail in project status reports. They may decide that different groups of stakeholders need different kinds of information about the project. The sponsor may also want weekly data rather than monthly and the Project Management Plan will list all of these decisions.
Project Management Plan: Project Sponsor and Project Manager Time Investment
Project management planning begins during the initiation process. This is where the project plan is developed and approved. In general, the project management planning effort should consume 90% of the time the project sponsor invests in the project.
Project management planning should also consume about 60% of the time the project manager is going to invest in the project. That way, they can invest sufficient thought about the entire project, anticipate problems, and think through alternative ways of doing the project. Project Management Plan best practices call for a very detailed planning effort followed by execution. The project execution process should require a small amount of adjustment and adaptation. A thorough project planning process allows the PM to efficiently produce the project deliverables.
The Project Management Plan document itself can be as brief as one side of one piece of paper for a small project as long as it identifies the major deliverables, the most significant risks and provides rough estimates of the required resources’ cost and hours. In larger projects, the plan could be quite large. The most common mistake in project management planning comes when the project sponsor sees the plan as a waste of time and wants to start work as quickly as possible. The sponsor brushes off objections from the project manager with the novel idea of “planning as we go.” Starting project work without a plan is not the way to produce the needed project deliverables as quickly as possible. This approach causes a great deal of wasted time and effort. People produce the wrong deliverables and waste considerable amounts of time. They’re trying to figure out what they should be doing and how all the pieces should come together. Even in emergencies, starting work without a plan is a dumb thing to do. You will always finish earlier and produce better results with a thoroughly thought out Project Management Plan.
Project Management Plan: Steps
Follow these six steps to project management success:
- Project manager and sponsor define the project scope. It is a clear, objectively measurable deliverable.
- Project manager and sponsor decompose (break down) the scope into 4 to 7 major deliverables that are required to deliver the scope.
- Project manager and stakeholders further subdivide the major deliverables down to the level of individual assignments for team members. Each of these is also a deliverable, not an activity. The lowest level of deliverables is the work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS is the basis for scheduling and other project management activities.
- Project manager and team members estimate the amount of work and duration that each task in the WBS will require. The team members should participate in these estimates so they have some “skin in the game” and commitment to their assignments.
- Project manager tracks actual results versus the plan. He/she reports variances and corrective action options to the project sponsor.
- As the project team produces each deliverable, the sponsor and stakeholders formally accept it. The project is over when the sponsor accepts the team’s last deliverable.
Learn how to create a Project Management Plan in our online Project Management Basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish. Take a look at the course in your specialty.
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