How to Develop an Effective Project Management Plan

How To Develop an Effective Project Management Plan (with templates)

If you want to know how to develop an effective Project Management Plan, this post is for you. It includes step by step instructions and a link to a comprehensive set of Project Management templates that align with good practices in project management.

What Makes an Effective Project Management Plan?

Effective project management plans are those that produce the intended result. Because every project represents a unique undertaking, effective project management plans vary, project to project.

Depending on the project, they establish achievable plans to perform on schedule and within budget. They might guide the project team in executing the required work and nothing further.  They may provide for meeting the quality requirements, managing the project risks, engaging the project stakeholders, and fulfilling the communication needs of the project.

To an inexperienced project manager, it may seem like the only way to discover whether the Project Management Plan is effective is to wait until the project closes and evaluate it. If you wait until the project closes, of course, you’re too late.

So, how do you ensure your Project Management Plan will be effective? For starters, you leverage widely recognized good practices that are relied upon by Project Managers around the world to produce the desired result.  By systemically implementing these good practices, you position yourself to avoid gaps in planning, more accurately measure project results, and make informed modifications for improvement.

Effective project management plans produce the intended result.

 

Steps for Developing an Effective Project Management Plan

Effective Project Management Plans are developed by implementing widely recognized good practices in project management. These practices include the following steps:

  1. Secure a comprehensive set of project management templates.
  2. Identify project roles and define responsibilities.
  3. Define the project lifecycle, product development approach, and management reviews.
  4. Identify, develop, and include relevant subsidiary management plans.
  5. Establish the project baselines.
  6. Establish the change control procedures.
  7. Obtain plan approval and work performance authorization.

Each of these steps are described below.

Effective project management plans are developed by implementing widely recognized good practices.

Step 1. Secure a Comprehensive Set of Project Management Templates

It’s rarely a good idea to work from a stand-alone Project Management Plan template. Think of the Project Management Plan template as framework. This “framework” must allow for inclusion of many different parts. For example, the Project Management Plan must provide for inclusion of subsidiary management plans, project baselines, and project documents. All of these “parts” will be different for every project, and they must fit together within the Project Management Plan “framework.”

When you begin cobbling together project management templates from varying sources, you may inadvertently create gaps in your project planning. Remember, it’s easier to remove subsidiary management plans and project documents from a comprehensive set of templates than it is to identify gaps and develop the plans and project documents you need. 

For these reasons, we recommend securing a comprehensive set of Project Management templates that are 1) developed in alignment with widely recognized good practices in project management and 2) are designed to work together. If your goal is to develop an EFFECTIVE Project Management Plan, understand that a comprehensive set of Project Management templates will save you time. 

A comprehensive set of Project Management templates will save you time.

Step 2. Identify Project Roles and Define Responsibilities

Projects come in varying sizes, present different complexities, and have vastly different needs. For these reasons, you must consider each of the project requirements and constraints when identifying the individuals who will perform the project work. Thereafter, to support their ability to achieve success, you must define their roles.

When you develop the Project Management Plan, don’t work in isolation. Besides gaining better insight, you’ll foster buy-in by tapping the expertise of project team members, other project stakeholders, and the project sponsor.

When you develop the Project Management Plan, don’t work in isolation.

Step 3. Define the Project Life Cycle, Product Development Approach, and Management Reviews

Every project is different. For this reason, it’s a good practice to define the project lifecycle, the product development approach, and identify all management reviews.

The project life cycle refers to the phases that a project will go through, from start to finish. In your Plan, identify phases and describe them in a manner that includes relevant milestones or conditions.

You should also define the product development approach. For example, the approach may be predictive, iterative, agile, or a hybrid model.

Typically, as a project progresses, it is periodically submitted for management reviews. The purpose of the reviews is to determine whether the project is performing as expected, or if preventative or corrective actions are necessary. When planning, identify upon what dates or achieved milestones the reviews will be conducted, and specify the person(s) who will conduct the reviews.

As you develop an effective Project Management Plan, review all the sources of information that are necessary for achieving project success. For example, you will likely reference the project charter, a relevant performance contract, lessons learned, historical information, subject matter experts, industry best practices, regulations, organizational policies, and more.

Review all the sources of information that are necessary for achieving project success.

Step 4. Identify, Develop, and Include Relevant Subsidiary Management Plans

The Project Management Plan houses all subsidiary management plans.  They are parts of the Plan. (a/k/a components) Within the Project Management Plan, you will identify, develop, and include the subsidiary management plans that are relevant to your project.  

The subsidiary management plans are a predominate and integral part of the Project Management Plan. To avoid gaps in planning, use subsidiary management plan templates that are designed to fit your Project Management Plan template. 

Our e-book, The Practitioner’s Book of Project Management Templates, includes comprehensive templates for the following subsidiary management plans. Each one is specifically designed to fit the Project Management Plan template that is included in the e-book. 

  • Change Management Plan
  • Communications Management Plan
  • Configurations Management Plan
  • Cost Management Plan
  • Procurement Management Plan
  • Quality Management Plan
  • Resource Management Plan
  • Requirements Management Plan
  • Risk Management Plan
  • Schedule Management Plan
  • Scope Management Plan
  • Stakeholder Engagement Plan
To avoid gaps in planning, use templates that are designed to fit your Project Management Plan template.

Step 5. Establish the Project Baselines

Baselines are also established in the Project Management Plan. Our Project Management Plan template provides for documenting the scope baseline which includes the scope statement, the work breakdown structure (WBS), and the WBS Dictionary. It also includes sections for documenting the schedule baseline, the cost baseline, and the performance measurement baseline. Our e-book includes the templates you’ll need to capture these baselines.

Step 6. Identify the Change Control Procedures

No template will fit every project. You must edit the Project Management Plan template to fit the needs of the project. Once the Project Management Plan is approved, it serves as a baseline for making comparisons between the Plan and the actual results. For this reason, the approved Project Management Plan must not be changed without proper authorization. In other words, change must be controlled.

Change control regards the authorization and process by which the Project Management Plan can be changed. Our Project Management Plan Template provides a section for including a Change Management Plan. It also specifies by default that, “There will be no changes to this Plan without the submission of a Change Request, on the approved Change Request form, to the Project Manager. All Change Requests will be processed in accordance with the Change Management Plan.” All of this can be edited, of course.

(Note that The Practitioner’s Book of Project Management Templates, contains a template for every subsidiary management plan and project document that is identified in the Project Management Plan template.)

You must edit the Project Management Plan template to fit the needs of the project.

Step 7. Obtain Plan Approval and Work Performance Authorization

Our Project Management Plan template includes a section for attaching project documents that may also need approval. Once inserted into the Project Management Plan, these documents become baselined upon Plan approval. 

Typically, the Project Sponsor provides formal Plan approval. By approving the Project Management Plan, the Project Sponsor authorizes the start of project work.  

Exercise caution here. Without plan approval, you may not have authorization to begin project work.

Without Plan approval, you may not have authorization to begin project work.

Good Practices Lead to Development of Effective Project Management Plans

That was a long post, packed with information. Let’s check for learning.

TEST QUESTION 1: So, what’s an effective Project Management Plan?

ANSWER: It’s one that produces the intended result.

TEST QUESTION 2: How do Project Managers develop effective Project Management Plans?

ANSWER: They consistently implement widely recognized good practices in project management.

Our e-book, “The Practitioner’s Book of Project Management Templates” will guide you in implementing these good practices. It contains 86 editable templates that will expedite your development of effective Project Management Plans. 

Let’s Get Started

Ready to develop an effective Project Management Plan? Select the button below to learn more about our e-book. Review the table of contents, download your copy, and get started.