Organizing projects can be very challenging, especially when several stakeholders or teams from different departments are involved. As a project manager, you need a well-organized process. However, nothing works without a plan. Especially not when it comes to difficult or complex projects. You don’t have to be a project management professional to be able to proceed here successfully. What is needed, however, is a well-thought-out project plan. But: how do I create a project plan? What does the project planning look like in detail? And how are the individual project phases structured, or how can I monitor and control them skillfully?
Create a project plan step by step – the work breakdown structure
Throwing yourself into a new project full of thought and verve can be exciting and exciting. And of course, there are types of people who want to get started with the implementation right away and only make marginal notes in the process. However, a brief brainstorming session is often not enough.
Statistics show that around a quarter of all projects fail because of project planning. So if you were not born as a “planning type” and organizational talent, you should take a deep breath at this point. Above all, however, follow the steps below, which ultimately lead to a well-established project plan. Project managers keep an eye on all project phases at all times:
Step 1: what is our goal?
You probably already know your goal at this point. After all, it was roughly defined by his boss. However, everyone else involved in the project must be also familiar with the individual goals. And above all, accept and understand them. It is therefore essential to brief the most critical internal and external stakeholders.
By making it clear what to do and why. The goals of a project must be clearly defined to attract influential stakeholders to its cooperation. And that is also necessary if the project was commissioned from the very top.
The first and essential step: a meeting. This determines the value of the project and finds a common direction. Everyone pulls together. All expectations of the project and, of course, those of the boss are discussed. Then the basis is determined, which everyone should adhere to. What is meant above all is the budget and the schedule.
Step 2: Apply planning and goal setting techniques and assign goals
The goals are set; now, they have to be aligned with the team and its goals. Ideally, all individual project goals are assigned to the requirements of the people involved in the project. It should be clear to everyone which expectations have to be met in which periods. It is also essential to highlight the extent to which progress can be measured during the project. All of these points and sub-points can now be sketched and illustrated.
Step 3: describe project elements individually
In step two, all tasks were assigned to the individual goals. The stakeholders have accepted this and now know what is fundamentally important. Now the elements of the project need to be defined. Each task is currently assigned to a responsible person. The time required for this task is also described. The resources needed for this can also be specified and determined here.
At this point, it is worthwhile to create a project management tool that everyone involved has access to. In this way, all employees can call up the individual details and steps again and again. Costly communication errors or misunderstandings in the allocation are avoided. “Oh, I thought you would do that?” Is no longer available. The use of project management software can be helpful here.
Step 4: Create a project schedule
The tasks to be performed were assigned, and goals and duties were defined within them. Everyone now knows what to do. But in what period? To answer this question, you need a timetable. A project timeline should be created here, which visualizes the individual project steps. In this way, all stakeholders always have an overview of the progress of the project. It can also be recognized in good time if the deadline threatens to be missed. Large tasks are ideally divided into several subtasks.
Unexpected bottlenecks naturally occur in every project. For example, because a vital project participant fails or falls ill. Or because there are delays elsewhere. In order not to be disrupted by small and quite common incidents, buffers are required. Ideally, these are always placed where there is an increased risk of failure. For example, when you have to rely on external help at some point.
Step 5: Who does what and what does it take?
At the beginning of a project, not all of the responsible persons and employees are directly available. How many people, how much money and which tools are needed must first be found out. A project plan must be precisely defined as how many workers with which skills or qualifications are required.
At this point, this is no longer that difficult; after all, the individual subtasks and tasks have already been precisely defined. The project manager can deduce precisely how many employee capacities and skills he needs.
Now the selected employees must be assigned to the tasks. So it is also the task of the project manager to put together functioning teams and to name team leaders. Each individual then needs to know about their responsibilities and expectations.
Step 6 – communication and control
Clear communication and transparency are part of a well-functioning project. After all, there is nothing more stressful than not knowing who knows about this and that. So it pays to create a well-functioning tool that everyone can access. All due dates should be there. Updates can also be made here, and reports can be submitted. Everyone can follow progress, errors can be recognized more quickly, and everyone quickly sees changes.
Step 7 – Plan B
Projects rarely run like clockwork. The rule says that there are always some problems. And these can usually be predicted if you take them into account. So now and then, in some places, it makes perfect sense to have a plan B. “If printer XY does not have any capacity, we will contact printer Z”.
Use project plan templates
A suitable project plan template can help plan the upcoming project properly. Even complex projects are pretty straightforward to prepare. If you want to create your project plan for free, you can also do this with Excel, for example. Free Excel project plan templates can be found quickly and easily on the Internet and downloaded. A project plan template can also be created with Word and worked out individually. If you want to take the next step, you can also use a template for the project order.