13. Make a Project Plan

Overview: A project plan includes a description of the business initiative and a list of tasks required to achieve the initiative, from beginning to end. Skills required for the initiative and the people who have the necessary skills need to be precisely identified. Stakeholders for the change initiative need to be identified and described. A project plan must include an estimate of the effort and time needed to implement the change initiative.

Considerations: A project plan should include potential areas of risk to be addressed early in the change process. The estimated timeline may be broken down into phases to enable better management of each phase. Variations from the timeline should be reported and discussed as they occur. Success factors should be included so management can determine the urgency of change initiatives. Who can be enlisted to critique the plan? What groups and individuals are likely required to carry the plan out? Are any outside resources required to assist in putting the plan into action? Will any of the team be traveling and require laptop configuration (for example)?


  • Draft components of the plan, commensurate with the complexity of the initiative to be performed:
  • Write a project charter
  • Develop a business case/project proposal
  • Draft a budget
  • Create a change management plan
  • Create a communication plan
  • Develop a risk management plan
  • Identify procurement management alternatives
  • Create a work breakdown structure by breaking the project down into phases, major activities, and tasks.
  • Estimate the effort in terms of full-time-equivalent (FTE) hours.
  • Use a top-down estimating technique, along with a bottom-up technique. A third method of verifying the amount of time required to accomplish the project is highly recommended.
  • Establish relationships between the tasks. Find dependencies such as tasks that must start at the same time, complete at the same time, or where one task must begin before the second task begins.
  • Assign skills to each task, noting that some tasks may require several people and several skills to complete.
  • Identify individuals with the appropriate skills to assign to the various tasks.
  • Using an automated project planning tool, allow the plan to calculate the project “critical path” and length of time required to accomplish the initiative.
  • Adjust the plan by adding or removing resources (people) from the plan, adjusting dependencies, and other features allowed by the automated tool.
  • Once the plan appears complete, clearly establish what people or group of people will assume ownership of the change initiative.
  • Note: Most experienced project managers add from 10% to 30% contingency to their project plan estimates. For very large efforts, complex, or high-risk efforts up to 50% contingency might be called for.
  • Other rules of thumb include: Add 15-20% for management and supervision. Sometimes this is called Program Management Office, or PMO. The organization change management component of a plan should typically include about the same amount of time that is allocated to the PMO.

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