The project plan is one of the cornerstones of successful change efforts. Harvey Mackay is quoted as saying; "Failures don't plan to fail; they fail to plan." 

Establishing a context for the project plan

In a recent study with 327 teams, project planning was the second most critical activity to the project's success.

The project plan (sometimes called the project prospectus at the early stages of a project) is the definition document for your project. You use it to organize the project and communicate project information to others.

When a project begins, the project plan may be only 5 to 10 pages, and targets the project sponsors and newly formed team. At this early stage, it serves as a document of understanding, and is key to ensuring that all sponsors and team members are working together with the same objectives and scope.

As the project plan moves forward, detailed work plans are added, resulting in project plans ranging from 10 to over 100 pages. The project plan then guides the project, and is a critical tool for project management.

The project plan:

  • serves as a document of understanding and negotiation with stakeholders
  • is key to ensuring that all sponsors and team members are working together with the same objectives and scope
  • guides the project
  • is a critical tool for project management


Customers of the Project Plan

  • Uusers of the processes and systems
  • Those people who can approve the budget
  • Your project team


Suppliers to the Document

  • The team leader or facilitator (typically the author)
  • The project stakeholders
  • Senior managers or business leaders

Components of the project plan

When writing the project plan, you need to do the following:

  1. Describe the project and define the project scope (what is the project about; what is included and not included)
  2. Establish project objectives and conditions of satisfaction (why is the project being done; how will you measure success)
  3. Develop the project approach (how will the project be accomplished - this section starts small with an outline of the methodology, and grows as detailed work plans are added)
  4. Describe the required team structure (who will do the work)
  5. Establish a project budget for the design phase (how much will it cost)


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Written by
Tim Creasey
Tim Creasey

Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.