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Don’t Plan to Fail: How to Create a Successful Project Plan

April 1, 2019

 I am a planner. If I’m going on vacation, I want to know what I’m doing every second of every day.

I’ve learned, the hard way, that other people are not planners. Some are okay to improvise their days, wandering into whatever cafes or nightclubs they happen to pass.

As someone who works in project management, regardless of your vacationing style, you have to bring a plan to work. Projects require an immense amount of time and resources, and it’s best to not assign such responsibilities in a lackadaisical way.

Set your project team up for guaranteed success by providing them with a legitimate, well-thought-out project plan.

Create a successful project plan

Creating a successful project plan requires a project manager to put in the work. Nothing good ever comes to those who don’t try. Unless of course, they’re privileged. But that’s neither here nor there.

In order to put your best foot forward, follow through on these steps.

1. Research

Research your project enough to understand what you should expect. What will your challenges be? Have other companies tried this project in the past? What should you budget for? What’s the scope of your project, and what deliverables are you aiming to achieve?

Determine how you are going to judge your own success. What criteria will the project be judged on? 

Additionally, do research into how long your project and the accompanying milestones should take to complete. Developing a schedule is pertinent to your success, so have a clear understanding of your timeline.

2. Outline

Once you have all of the vital details burned into your brain, create a rough breakdown of the work, or an outline to help you visualize the upcoming steps.

Project plan outline templateOutline example courtesy of Template Lab 
 

This breakdown will typically include elements such as:

  • Your determined goals and deliverables
  • What measurements will be used for success and/or approval
  • Tentative project schedule including milestones
  • Necessary resources, permissions, approvals, budget needs, etc.

3. Communicate

If your team is already assembled, then it’s time to lay the project research and outline out in front of them. It’s important to be in constant contact with your employees so they understand the strategies needed to reach success.

Allow your team to have input. They’re the ones who will be carrying the project out. If they don’t think a certain milestone can be hit in a week, this is their chance to speak up and help you adjust expectations.

4. Record

Now that you’ve done all the research and gotten a clear OK from your team, it’s time to record all of your findings. This is the part of the plan that will be presented to stakeholders, whether on its own or as part of a larger business case

You should record your plan according to your team or company’s best practices. Do you use Gantt charts? Do it that way. Are you more familiar with a PERT chart? Then do it that way. 

Project plan Gantt chart example

Gantt chart image courtesy of ProjectManager.com 

Regardless of the format, a project plan should consist of the following:

  • All basic project details
  • Project purpose, goals and deliverables
  • A list of milestones and projected deadlines
  • A list of the participating employees and their unique responsibilities
  • Necessary resources such as permits and monetary needs
  • Constraints or dependencies that might otherwise interrupt project success

5. Publish

All that’s left now is to publish your plan and submit it to all related parties. Stakeholders, team members: everyone who is a part of the plan or will be affected by it should have access to the finished product.

Don’t plan to fail

Now that you know what goes into a successful project plan, you’re ready to get started on building that house, or redesigning your company website. Remember to plan ahead, and leave the improv to all the struggling comedy performers in Chicago.

Want to feel even more prepared for an upcoming project? Check out our guide on project planning or read up on how to conduct a feasibility study.  

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