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How To Create An Effective Project Management Plan

business women discussing their project management plan

Creating an effective project management plan may seem like a daunting task — and in many cases, it is. But, like the project itself, if you break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks, the process won’t feel so intimidating.

In this article, the management experts at Sling give you a step-by-step guide to help you build the project management plan that works for your team.

What Is A Project Management Plan

business meeting about project management plans

A project management plan is a document or group of documents that describes:

  • The scope and objectives of a project
  • The steps you and your team will take to reach your goals
  • The process by which you’ll manage the tasks involved

A complete and effective project management plan is like a roadmap that contains detailed instructions to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Not only does this roadmap show you the route to take, but it also tells you how far to travel each day, where to stop each night, and where you’ll be after X days on the road.

One of the key points to remember, though, is that a road trip of any duration or distance starts with planning — picking the route, what hotel you’re going to stay at, who’s going to drive, etc.

The same is true of a project management plan.

The completed document explains (in as much detail as necessary) everything from individual and team responsibilities to budgetary concerns and timelines for achieving specific goals.

And, just like the roadmap you use on your driving adventure, a project management plan, regardless of size or scope, starts with planning — understanding the project, researching the ins and outs, analyzing your team’s skills, etc.

We’ll discuss these and other aspects of creating an effective project management plan in the next section.

How To Create A Project Management Plan

Coworkers discussing their project

1) Develop Your Project Management Skills

A large part of drafting a project management plan is first developing the skills necessary to get the job done.

The nice thing about developing such skills is that many of them are the same essential qualities that all managers need for success, including:

Cultivate and strengthen these skills every day on the job — even when you’re not working on a project — so that you’re ready when the workload increases.

For more information on how to practice and improve these necessary skills, take a moment to read this helpful article from Sling:

15 Project Management Skills To Help You Succeed

2) Gather Requirements

Think of this step as getting a bird’s-eye view of the project as a whole by talking to the key stakeholders and gathering the requirements of the final deliverable.

Once you understand what the stakeholders are asking for, you can start to visualize — in a general sense — how you and your team are going to get to the end product and how long it’s going to take.

3) Research

The research stage is where you start to solidify the larger — and some of the smaller — aspects of the project. You haven’t started writing your plan yet, but you’re getting closer.

You should ask plenty of questions of yourself and your clients during the research stage in an attempt to fill in the finer details, such as:

  • Your client’s needs and expectations
  • The structure of your team
  • The process your team will follow
  • Who will be responsible for what
  • The risks inherent in the project

It’s also a good idea to identify how the client hopes to benefit from the final deliverable. When you can see past the stated needs to the underlying purpose of the project, your team will be much more likely to succeed in the end.

4) Create A Project Plan Template

A project plan template is basically a premade form where you record all the details you’ve decided on in the previous steps.

You can customize your template as you see fit, but most will have basic information such as:

  • Project sponsor (stakeholders)
  • Project manager
  • Scope of project
  • Final deliverable
  • Stages of development
  • Deadlines
  • Task breakdown

For more details on this key step, read Sling’s helpful article:

How To Create The Perfect Project Plan In 14 Easy Steps | Project Plan Template

5) Build A Rough Draft

Once you’re finished with your project plan template, it’s time to build a rough draft of the project management plan.

Fill in as much detail as possible, but keep in mind that this is not the final product yet — much of that information may change.

6) Set Up A Tentative Project Schedule

Sling's Scheduling feature

A significant part of every effective project management plan is assigning tasks to specific sub-teams or individual employees.

As the project manager, you’re going to need to coordinate the long-term activities of your team as well as their day-to-day work. Without the ability to schedule effectively, you leave everything up to chance.

That’s why tools like Sling are so important. The Sling suite of cloud-based tools streamlines the scheduling process and allows you to see both the project as a whole and the small tasks that your team has yet to do.

7) Meet With Your Team

With the rough draft of your project management plan in hand, it’s time to meet with your team. During the meeting, present them with the basics and get their input and feedback with the goal of:

  • Revealing any holes in your planning
  • Helping you build a more solid, well-rounded, and complete project plan
  • Ensuring that everyone is focused and on the same page
  • Building trust between you and your team
  • Getting team members excited about solving the problems ahead of them

It may take several meetings with your team to get to the point where you’re all satisfied with the plan.

8) Conduct A Risk Assessment

All projects come with some risk. You’ll ensure your success if you identify potential problems and pitfalls before you begin.

Are there major holidays coming up that will affect production? What if inclement weather delays progress? What happens if your team lead gets sick and has to take a week off work?

Once you’ve identified potential problems, establish solutions to those issues so that, should they occur, you know exactly what to do to keep the project moving forward.

9) Finalize Your Project Management Plan

After the risk assessment, it’s time to incorporate any changes you’ve made to your template and finalize the project management plan.

When you do this, keep it as simple as possible while still incorporating all essential information. If it helps to conserve space, consider a visual representation of the details.

Images, tables, and charts convey a great deal with a single glance and make it easier for team members to understand what they need to do.

10) Present The Plan To Stakeholders

Before turning your team loose to start working, present the finalized project management plan to your stakeholders.

During this meeting, describe all aspects of your plan so that everyone has an understanding of the whole project.

Explain how you will address expectations, goals, and deliverables. Outline potential problems and the solutions you’ve devised should they occur.

After everyone is satisfied with the project management plan, make it a point to get the go-ahead from the clients and have them sign-off on the plan.

Executing And Adapting

man creating a project management plan on his laptop

Once you have an effective project management plan in hand, it’s time to execute. Distribute the plan to your team members and give them the green light to get started.

Be sure to monitor your team’s progress and keep them engaged so that they meet all the deadlines you’ve outlined in the plan.

Once your team is well into the project, it’s vital to understand that even the best-laid plans are not set in stone. They can, and will, change — sometimes on a moment’s notice.

But with a good team and a clear understanding of the project at hand, you can refine your plan to handle any bumps along the way. That’s a recipe for success.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.

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