How Big Is It? - Project Management

So how big is the project plan, you may be wondering. That depends on the project. If your project is small in scope and duration, all of this information can be captured in just a few pages. If the project is lengthy in duration and large in scope, it's probably going to take several pages per Planning activity to complete the project plan. You'll want to keep the plan as concise as you can, and experience will tell you how much detail you should include in each plan. It's always a good idea to add some narrative description with these documents to help the stakeholders and management team understand the information that's being presented.

I would also recommend adding an executive summary at the front of the project plan. An executive summary gives casual readers a high-level overview of the project, the project goals, and what the product or service of the project will look like when completed.

The better the project plan, the better prepared you and the project team will be to carry out the work of the project and deal with unexpected events. Reviewing and keeping the plan up to date is as important as writing the plan in the first place. Doing so lets you effectively judge new situations that come up and make the necessary corrections to get the project back on track.

Large Projects

Large project plans consist of several subproject plans that roll up to a master project plan. Subproject managers are the ones responsible for creating the project plans for their deliverable. The project manager oversees the preparation of the subproject plans and consolidates them to form the master plan. Each sub-project manager follows all the Planning processes we've talked about to come up with their subproject plan.

Below is a sample portion of a WBS for a large project. Each of the deliverables at level two, "Information Technology," "Store Build-Out," and "Retail Products," requires its own project plan.

It's possible that this project is so large that each level-three WBS element requires a subproject plan that is in turn rolled up to a level-two subproject plan. All the level-two plans are then consolidated into the overall project plan.

Obtaining Approvals

The project sponsor and key stakeholders should approve the final project plan. At this point, approval is really a formality because they've seen and approved each of the documents that make up the plan. But this gives them one last chance to look over the plan as a whole and make recommendations before approving the project plan.

Don't assume because you've made it to this point that the project is automatically going forward to the next phase. Things can change between the time the project was first selected, the project plans were completed, and now. For example, you might be preparing the plans for a high-profile project that the entire organization is excited about only to have the CEO or some other top executive resign at the conclusion of the Planning process. You guessed it—a new CEO comes on board and wants to know what the heck everyone thought was so great about that old project when their new project is much more important!

Fortunately, that doesn't happen often. But be aware that projects can get killed in the Planning process—don't take it personally (unless of course it was poor planning or incomplete planning on your part that killed the project). Business changes over time; organizational goals change; personnel turnover occurs, changing the dynamics of the team; and even the risk tolerance of the stake-holders can change, given economic indicators or new marketing data or a host of other reasons, ultimately giving executives reason to kill the project.

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