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Create an Achievable Project Plan

By Raleigh deShazo

You’ve confirmed your functional and technical requirements. You’ve solidified your project team. You’re ready to finalize your project plan. Most of you probably already know how to create a project plan, so I’ll cut to the chase. If things aren’t going as expected and your plan is going to work, it should include the following:

  1. Task level detail – A good plan documents each step for each deliverable and the resource assigned to it. Hours for each step aren’t as important as duration. This will allow you to identify dependencies and risk points across work-streams.

  2. Dependencies – This should include task and resource level dependencies. You need to understand potential impacts if that key resource is missing.

  3. Buffer – No formula is perfect here. Sometimes this just takes experience. You need recognizable buffers throughout your plan. Things happen. Murphy’s Law rules. Other initiatives take priority. Resources leave or are reassigned. Development doesn’t go as planned. Build those likelihoods into your plan.

  4. Critical path – Clearly document critical path. Project stakeholders should understand the most important milestones and resources. Missed milestones, and unavailable resources, require corrective measures. This also allows everyone to focus on what’s important.

  5. Risk mitigation – Document your risk mitigation plans and get agreement early in the process. How are you going to react if you miss key milestones or your target delivery date is compromised? Can you add or reallocate resources? Can you adjust other tasks or deliverables? Can you delay the go live date? Can you move some planned Day 1 functionality to Phase 2? Preparation here is critical to keeping stress levels to a minimum when things don’t go as planned.

The best PMs prepare for the worst and communicate mitigation plans to their project teams. By doing so, you’ll instill confidence in your ability to lead the project to the finish line.