Project Management Guide:

How to create a Project Plan

Creating Your Project Plan

Does your project have a plan? Chances are you think you have a project plan, or a semblance of one anyway. You may think that you have everything figured out and that you know exactly what you’re going to be doing, but that’s not necessarily the case. Rather, you might just be taking your project and pushing forward without ever creating the plan that you need to get there. That’s where you’re going to need a little bit of help. And we’re going to walk you through just what it means to have a real plan and how you’re going to create it and use it.

What is a Project Plan?

Let’s start with just what a project management plan is. It’s quite simple because it’s a system that accurately and completely defines the objectives, steps, and scope of the project that you’re going to be working on. So, if you already have the project then you’re already halfway to creating the type of plan that you need for that project to be a success. And it’s going to be entirely up to you to decide just what is going to go into that plan.

Writing Your Plan

The next step is to write out the plan. Sure, it’s a great idea to create one, but if you don’t write it down chances are pretty good that you’re going to forget something or someone else isn’t going to know what they need to do to achieve their tasks. That’s where writing everything out helps. It makes everything clear without you having to explain it multiple times. That’s going to be a good start, don’t you think? And it’s going to help you all to be more successful.

Step One

Step one is to know what the scope of the plan is going to be. What is it that you need to do for your project to be a success? What’s your goal? Is it to create an advertising campaign for the new account you just landed? Maybe it’s to create a new product that answers a specific need. No matter what it is, the scope of your plan should define what your end ‘product’ will be and when that needs to be done. You want you to know the end before you set up the middle.

Step Two

Step two is a whole lot of research. We know, you don’t like to do a lot of research, but it’s going to be an important part of the process because you need to know not just the objective of the project itself, but also what your client is looking for. What do they expect out of you? Also, who are you going to be working with and how do they perform best when working on a team? All of this information makes sure that you’re prepared for the execution of the plan before you’re putting it into action.

Step Three

Step three is asking questions. You want to know how things need to be done and who is going to do them and what the risks and rewards are. You’re going to ask as many questions as you possibly can to fully understand the project so that you can create a plan that accurately answers all of the client questions as well as your own. Make sure you’re not letting anything fall by the wayside in this part. You’ll need to question your client as well as anyone who’s going to be a part of your team to make sure things are going to come together right.

Step Four

Step four is where we get to the outline of your plan. This is where you’re going to create a very rough idea of what things are going to look like. Make sure you’re not rushing into this, but also don’t overthink it too much because you’re likely going to make a lot of changes before you get to the final plan. In this part you’re going to write down what the final objective is and each task that needs to be done to get there. Write out the timelines you need for those tasks, resources that are going to be needed to execute them and anything you need regarding budget or anything else.

Step Five

Step five is where you’re going to start bringing your team further into the mix. This is where you want to discuss with them the goals of your project and what it’s going to take for you to achieve those goals. You’ll need to work with them to go over some of the ideas that you’ve come up with for your plan and run thoughts and ideas past them to find out what they think. Being a good project manager or even just a good leader within this single project is going to require you to take their thoughts and their ideas into account. By talking to them about this you encourage communication from the start.

Step Six

Step six is where you’re going to create a more formal and final version of the project plan. Now, don’t feel too overwhelmed because there’s still going to be room for you to make changes later on, but this one should be as close to final as possible. Do all your research so that, if everything goes right, this plan can be followed, and go easy on yourself about what might not go according to plan. The right gantt chart software can make a huge difference here because you can assign different tasks, set up jobs that need to be done and even work with dependencies and more. Check out InstaGantt to find out more about how you can get the help you need to create your ultimate plan.

Step Seven

Step seven is where you’re going to start executing your plan. With this step, you’re going to simply send out the project plan you’ve created through InstaGantt (gantt chart maker)to all of the people who are on the team and anyone else who needs to be kept in the loop (like your boss, for example). You want to make sure that everyone is aware of their tasks and assignments and also that they are going to start working where they need to immediately. You don’t want a great plan that sits and gathers dust because no one is doing anything.

Step Eight

Step eight is where you get one final person to take a close look at your project plan. Ask them to go over the details and read through everything with a fine-tooth comb. You want to make sure you didn’t accidentally put your financial person Sally on a task that should be handled by your legal person Suzy or that you didn’t put down the wrong name for the client or the wrong deadline. This other person should have an idea of what’s going on with the project and should be able to point out any problems (including the fact that Matt is going on vacation for a week when you have him written down for a crucial piece of the project, for example).

Step Nine

Step nine is where you’re going to tell the entire team and everyone responsible for the job what the plan is. You’re going to send it out to them and you want to be sure they read through it and understand each of their roles. Encourage them to ask questions of each other or you if they need more help or they don’t understand something. You want everyone to get it and you want them to get started working on executing your project plan immediately. That’s how the result is going to be achieved. This is also where you want to go over things with your client to make sure that you have deadlines and deliverables right before you start.

Step Ten

Step ten is the end and this is where you’re going to be open to changes and you’re going to be flexible about things that might not go according to plan. You want to have a little bit of an open mind about what needs to be done and when. You need to be willing to adjust things and work with your team as needed, like when an emergency comes up and someone can’t deliver a task on time or when a task takes longer to get just right than expected, or even when the client gets a little difficult to get in touch with and you can’t get final approval. Be willing to edit the plan as needed.

What Goes in Your Final Plan?

Let’s back up just a little bit so we can make sure that your final plan is just what you need it to be, shall we? Well, when you work with gantt chart you’ll be able to create everything right in the project management software and you’ll start with things like the name of the client and the specific project, and the date it needs to be delivered by. This is the basic information and it’s only going to help you sort this project from any other project that you or someone else in your office might be working on. You want to make sure that you use any inter-departmental codes or tags you might have as well.
Next, create milestones and specific items that need to be delivered. Within each of these, create headers and subtasks that need to be done. Don’t be afraid to make several different layers of these to make sure you cover everything Then, make sure that each person on your team knows who is responsible for the tasks. You can even assign them to someone and name that person directly in the system. That way, everyone on the team knows that Sara is in charge of the financial deliverable before Mark can get started on the art concept.

You’ll want to add in any resources that are required for each of the tasks, which means that each person will know what they need before they can get started including who is in charge of those different resources. You should also clarify anything that sounds confusing either in the system or in person and you should add in the dates when the person should be working on that task. Create a start date and an end date so they’re not getting too far ahead of the rest of the team and they’re not going to slow you all down.

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