Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about why every professional should bring project management skills to the table…
…how to lay the foundations for a successful project, even if you’ve never led a project before…
…and how to avoid last-minute surprises, crises, and project failures by getting crystal clear on project requirements before you make your project plan.
So now that you know where you’re going with the project and what you’ll need to get there, it’s time to bring your team on board and get ready to execute.
For that, you need a detailed project plan that enables your team to understand and navigate each phase of the project.
Your project plan accomplishes three main things. It should:
- Provide a visual of the big picture plan, so you can see at a glance what’s already been done and what’s coming up next
- Give your team enough information to get to the next milestone, so they can do the right work at the right times
- Allow you to track (and enjoy) the progress you’ve made
To create a plan that serves all those purposes, you’ll need to create a plan that shows the full scope of the project while simultaneously providing enough granularity to keep the project team on track.
How to Make a Project Plan That WORKS
Step 1: Tackle your project plan in stages.
Start your project planning from a high-level perspective, and then drill down to specific tasks and deliverables.
- Stage 1: Identify project deliverables or outcomes. These will become the cornerstones of your project plan.
- Stage 2: Break up project deliverables into components or categories. This allows you to organize your project plan, so your team can see at a glance the major pieces to be executed. For example, a software project might be broken into design, development, testing and implementation components.
- Stage 3: Break your major categories into sub-components, as needed. This granularity gives you a clearer picture of what actually needs to happen — and helps you think through the timelines, resources, and implicated team members.
Step 2: Add in tasks and details.
You don’t need to know every step of the process right now — but your initial project plan should lay out the key activities that are necessary to achieve the desired outcome.
By this point, you should have a good feel for what needs to be done now to get the project rolling. Focus on fleshing out these tasks first.
- Detail out the specific tasks. You don’t need to know every task or detail at the outset — but your plan should be solid enough that your team can begin work.
- Set target dates for each task and assign responsibility to a single person. Tasks without deadlines and clear ownership rarely get completed.
- Be aware of any questions that need to be explored or answered in order to determine an approach. Focus on this discovery first.
- Take note of any elements of the plan that require consultation or approval. Be sure the relevant tasks include instructions as to who must sign off on them.
Get Your Project Rolling By Creating Your Plan Today
Now that you know HOW to create a project plan, it’s time to dive in.
Set aside an hour to map out a plan for your next project.
Be sure your plan contains:
- A schedule – including start and end dates and task deadlines
- Dependencies — what task or elements must be completed before the team can start work on the next step?
- Clear ownership of each task
- All project activities, including communication and change management
Once you have your plan, all that’s left is to execute! In the next post in this series, you’ll learn how to manage all the details, drive progress, and maintain momentum.