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How to Write A Proper Project Management Plan

Project Planning, Project Management Blog
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If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been a part of a project that has failed to reach its goals.

Well, as someone who’s also actively involved in project planning, I can say that I’ve had my fair share of negative experiences.

Even though project failure rates are notoriously difficult to measure and compare, poor planning is without a doubt is in the top five of the most common reasons for frustration.

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Project Management Institute, for example, mentioned poor planning countless times in this guide to the most pressing issues impacting the performance of projects.

Also, the organization mentioned that a lot of problems during project implementation occur because of a lack of a proper management plan. Wellingtone agrees, as their The State of Project Management Survey 2018 found a lack of planning skills to be in the top 3 of project management challenges.

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(Source: Wellingtone)

So what does all of this impact the creation of a project management plan? Read on.


The Most Common Shortcomings of Project Management Plans

In the above-mentioned guide, Project Management Institute highlighted the following errors made with project management plans:

  • The plan focuses on technical details instead of business value, thus lacking a clear description of the planned delivery of that value
  • A lack of a detailed plan developed before the start. This results in a lack of a consistent methodology for planning and executing projects, i.e. chaos
  • Poor recovery plans (or lack thereof). If the team struggles with overcoming a challenge, it needs a recovery plan to get the project back on track. If no recovery guidelines have been developed, chances are that the team will waste a lot of time thinking of a proper solution, etc.

I think that project managers would also love to add such issues as unclear descriptions of roles, expectations, and even success.

Fortunately, most of these issues can be reduced or eliminated with a properly written project management plan. Of course, I don’t mean a lack of grammar mistakes by “properly written,” but rather a set of techniques that prevent the issues that make project teams find themselves upstream without a paddle.

How to Write an Effective Project Management Plan

All right, time to get all technical and detailed now.

1. Include the Six Basic Sections in the Structure of the Plan

As you probably know very well, a project management plan is essentially a collection of baselines, deadlines, and sub plans. To cover everything and be able to manage nasty surprises, be sure to include the following 4 sections in your plan:

  • Baselines for schedules, costs, goals, and scope
  • Guidelines for change and risk management
  • Project approvals

Having these sections in the plan ensures a comprehensive approach to achieving the goals of the project. However, this is not a formula for success, as taking proper care of each section is the critical next step.

2. How to Write the “Baselines for Schedules, Costs, Goals, and Scope” Section

There are four important things to describe here: schedules, costs, goals, and scope of the project. Let’s talk about each of these in more detail.

Project Schedules

The contents of this subsection will integrate deadlines, deliverables and important dependencies to define the project’s milestones and progress.

Project Costs

Come up with detailed and clear estimates for all the costs that might be present (obviously, involve all relevant stakeholders in this discussion). Once you collect the feedback and confirm the estimates, add them to this subsection.

Counting the cost of each individual task to have a better understanding of the total cost is also a good idea that helps to improve budget planning.

Project Goals

This subsection should answer the following questions:

  • What is the goal of this project?
  • What exactly will the team deliver?
  • Are there primary and secondary goals?
  • When are the goals going to be achieved?

Project Scope

The ultimate goal of this subsection is to prevent scope creep, a situation in which a project or its scope expands uncontrollably without adjustments to resources, deadlines, or costs. According to the Project Management Institute’s Pulse of the Profession 2018 report, 52 percent of projects experience scope creep at some point of implementation.

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(Source: Pulse of the Profession 2018 report, Project Management Institute)

Although there’s no universal formula from preventing project scope from happening, the risk of running into this issue depends on the following factors:

  • Communication within the project team
  • Changes in project goals
  • Erroneous requirements collection
  • Changes in the goals of the organization
  • Effectiveness of project management and control over execution.

Yes, it’s difficult – that’s why 52% of projects fall into this trap – so adequate preparation and planning are essential.

That’s why the scope subsection is also complex and should include these 4 critical parts:

  • The approach to managing the scope of the project. Here, you define how you manage the scope, who’s responsible for that, and how they conduct measurements
  • The roles and responsibilities. Since losing the grip on the project scope can be really easy, describe who does what when things go a bit off course
  • Scope measurement. This is where you describe how the project team verifies that they’re doing a great job of meeting the goals, i.e. the formal acceptance process
  • Scope control. It all comes down to measuring the progress of the project on a continuous basis and doing what needs to be done to avoid the creep.

Tracking every factor seems like a daunting task – and it is – but with project management tools like Orangescrum managers can do so much more easily and effectively.

3. How to Write Guidelines for Change and Risk Management

Precaution is better than cure, and this is especially relevant in project management. That’s why defining how you’re going to handle changes and risks is paramount important for improving the project’s outcomes.

Risk Management

This subsection defines the risk management process that you’re going to use to ensure that the project is on track to achieve its goals. Here’s a framework for such a process:

  • Identify potential problems and stakeholders. Knowing the risks and problems before actually running into them is a big advantage. Have a discussion with your team and come up with a list of the bad thing that can happen as well as who’s going to be responsible for making them go away (risk owners)
  • Work out solutions for addressing the risks. The owner of each risk you’ve identified should work together with the project manager to decide a mutual action in case a problem occurs, i.e. a response plan
  • Risk monitoring. It’s possible that new risks will appear during the project implementation, so monitor inefficiencies, fails, and other problems that could potentially become risks impacting the bottom line of the project.

Change Management

According to Project Management Survey 2017, 63 percent of project managers undertake formal change management activities during the project lifecycle. However, about 50 percent of them also claim that these activities are “moderately effective.”

That’s why in this important subsection, we clearly define how do you deal with changes that could happen along the way (and they are inevitable). The following change management process should be a good blueprint for you:

  • Change request analysis. Let’s suppose that someone within or outside the project team requests a change. In this section, describe how you’ll determine if the change is worth implementing as well as methods of incorporating it while minimizing the effect on the performance of the team
  • Impact analysis. Work together to evaluate the potential impact of the change and develop a plan for handling it properly
  • Decide if you approve or deny the proposed change.

How to Write the Project Approvals Section

In this section, clearly define the formal process of approving anything from memos and invoices to purchases and milestone confirmations. This simply means that you need to come up with procedures to follow to approve these activities. This includes a description of the submission process, approver’s identification, permission levels, and due dates.


The purpose of the tips above was to provide you with a comprehensive look at how to write a project management plan properly by taking into account all involved factors. Feel free to use it as a reference to ensure that you cover all bases and keep in mind that a project management plan is a living document that involves as the project grows.

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