How To Build A Project Plan

7 tips to build robust & realistic project plans

The axiom “a failure to plan is a plan to fail” finds no clearer expression on the work landscape than when applied to building project plans. Of course, project managers obviously don’t set out to build dysfunctional plans that derail projects and lead to cost overruns, missed deadlines and infuriated customers. Yet in alarming number of initiatives, this is exactly what happens: 

  • IAG Consulting surveyed more than 100 companies and found that 68% of projects failed.
  • The Standish Group examined 10 years’ worth of project performance data and found that 42% failed.
  • McKinsey & Company studied over 5,000 large-scale projects and found that 56% delivered less value than expected, 45% exceeded budget, and 17% were so catastrophic that they threatened the company’s very survival.

Fortunately, project manager and other stakeholders don’t have to hope that their plan is realistic and robust enough to function when the going gets tough and the pressure is on. Instead, they can wisely keep the following best practices in mind on how to build a project plan that works:

  • Establish the Statement of Work: The statement of work is the foundation for the project plan. It’s essential to ensure that this document is free of contradictions or ambiguities that can lead to unwanted change orders down the road..
  • Break It Down: Create a work breakdown structure (WBS) that provides a detailed list of project deliverables.
  • Kickoff  Right: Schedule a kickoff meeting with project stakeholders to confirm that the list of tasks in the WBS is complete and meets project objectives.
  • Identify Risks: Risks might result from a lack of resource availability, potential design challenges, and so on. Once identified, develop plans to reduce the likelihood of a problem arising, along with contingency plans and workarounds just in case. 
  • Build it Out: Plans should include deliverables, dependencies, milestones, schedules, budgets; all of which must mapped to available resources.
  • Use Top-Down & Bottom-Up Approaches: Don’t choose one vs. the other – because both top-down and bottom-up approaches are necessary to build a strong and successful project plan.
  • Use the Right Planning Tool: Award-winning project management software like Clarizen makes it easy to develop detailed project plans and to share plans with internal and external stakeholders. Share ideas or concerns about the plan and stay informed about changes that might arise along the way.

To learn more, download the PDF data sheet “Why Clarizen?” and request your free 30-day trial of Clarizen.