This Guest paper was submitted for publication and is copyright to Elizabeth Larson © 2012.
Republished here March 2022.

Editor's Note | Introduction | Step 1: Explain the Project Plan
Step 2: Define Roles and Responsibilities | Step 3: Hold a Kickoff Meeting
Step 4: Develop a Scope Statement | Step 5: Develop Scope Baseline
Step 6: Develop the Schedule and Cost Baselines
Step 7: Create Baseline Management Plans | Step 8: Develop the Staffing Plan
Step 9: Analyze Project Quality and Risks | Step 10: Create a Communications Plan

Step 1: Explain the Project Plan

The project plan is typically a set of living documents, most of which will be updated or changed over the life of the project. Like a roadmap, the project plan provides the direction for the project. And like the traveler, the project manager needs to set the course for the project. In project management terms, that means creating that project plan. Moreover, just as a driver may encounter road construction or new routes to the final destination, the project manager may need to make course corrections to the project as well. Nevertheless, present and explain it to the project team and key stakeholders so far as it goes, and discuss the plans key components.

A common misconception is that the plan equates to the project timeline. However, this is only one of the many components of the plan. The project plan is the major work product from the entire planning process, so it contains all the planning documents for the project.

Typically many of the project's key stakeholders, that is those affected by both the project and the project's end result, do not fully understand the nature of the project plan. Since one of the most important and difficult aspects of project management is getting commitment and buying, the first step is to explain the planning process and the project plan to all key stakeholders. It is essential for them to understand the importance of this set of documents and to be familiar with its content, since they will be asked to review and approve the documents that pertain to them.

Components of the Project Plan

These include:

  • Baselines. Baselines are sometimes called performance measures, because the performance of the entire project is measured against them. They are the project's three approved starting points and include the scope, schedule, and cost baselines. These provide the 'stakes in the ground.' That is, they are used to determine whether or not the project is on track, during the execution of the project.
  • Baseline management plans. These plans include documentation on how variances to the baselines will be handled throughout the project. Each project baseline will need to be reviewed and managed. A result of this process may include the need to do additional planning, with the possibility that the baseline(s) will change. Project management plans document what the project team will do when variances to the baselines occur, including what process will be followed, who will be notified, how the changes will be funded, etc.
  • Other work products from the planning process. These include a risk management plan, a quality plan, a procurement plan, a staffing plan, and a communications plan.
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