Every time I teach a class or course in project management, there is always a student or two who wants to know if a project management plan is always needed. My short answer is always “yes.” And this is because whether you have a four-tome project management plan for a major civil project, such as a new airport, or a plan with a page or two to help you design and build a wooden table, you need to create a road map to:
- Figure out the best way to achieve project success and
- Convey to your stakeholders (even if it is just you) what you are executing
I like a very detailed project management plan. I feel that you can never have too much information regarding any project; you can always archive some of it or not highlight it. However, you can have too little information and then go back and fill in some of the blanks. But this is somewhat of a personal preference. The extent of a project management plan and the details provided varies from project to project, from project manager to project manager, needs of the team and other stakeholders, and so on. The important aspect of the PM plan is that you have what you need to get the work done satisfactorily, as well as have the baselines needed to gauge progress, end-of-lifecycle success, and, if this is a project in a series of many, log the historical data for future references, such as actual costs incurred, adherence to scope and budget, risks identified and those that came up unexpectedly, and other relevant data.
It is also important to note that there is no standard practice for the size and content of the PM plan. In other words, there is no parametric data, such as “one page of PM plan is needed for every $1,000 of budget.” The PM plan will vary from project to project, even if they are similar. And an experienced project manager will learn to quickly and effectively create one after a few years of doing this type of work. And this is not only because you can start creating or more efficiently using existing templates, but because the needs of the team, stakeholders at large, sponsor, clients, risk level, probability of scope creep, and so on will dictate the type and detail needed in the PM plan. This skill must be learned through experience and, to a certain level, “gut instinct.” Eventually, however, it will be second nature.
So, even if you think you can get by without a formal PM plan and want to get by with a few notes in a notebook, go ahead and create the plan and use it as a learning exercise for future and potentially more complicated projects. You will not be wasting your time.
PM Workshops provides training and consulting services in project management. Feel free to contact us for consulting or training in project and program management plans.