Creating a foolproof project plan: Project Management 101

Did you know that one of the top reasons that projects fail is down to a lack of planning? Here are our three simple steps to planning a project.

​Ever been in a car, travelling to a new destination, and it doesn’t have a Sat Nav? #firstworldproblems, but seriously, I’m sure this sentence has filled you with dread.

​​“What do you mean I need to get to a destination and I don’t have a clue how to get there?” You wouldn’t have it – you’d demand a Sat Nav or at least a map and rightly so!

​I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve picked up where there is no plan, and not surprisingly, it’s not going very well!

How on earth do we think we’ll be able to get to the end without an idea of how to get there? It’s simple, yet it’s still one of the biggest reasons projects fail.

As a wise lady once told me, “the thing about common sense is… it’s not that common”.

So, how do we plan for a project?

Any project should first have requirements. What is it that I need to get out of the end of this project? How would I expect it to work? And what would success look like? (Watch out for a blog on requirements gathering later.) Once you know these requirements you can break down your need into simple tasks.

​Let’s use the analogy of creating your dream home to illustrate the fundamentals of a plan.

You want to build your dream home. We’re talking indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, an open plan kitchen, the lot! But how do you achieve this outcome?

Ultimately, it comes down to three things: picking the key milestones, picking the people and picking…to reach our end goal.

Picking your key milestones ​

Now, obviously there is a hell of a lot that goes into building a home. Even more so with said home in mind! By starting at the end we can narrow this project down. So, with the end in mind what are the KEY outcomes of your project? They probably look a bit like this:

​1. Lay the foundations
2. Build the home
3. Furnish the home

These would be called your “Level 0” milestones – these signify key achievements in the house build project. Of course, to achieve the 2nd milestone ‘build the home’, there are many, many things which must take place:

​2.1. Gather all the required building resources
2.2. Gather all the appropriate building materials
And so on…

These are all things that will help you achieve your “Level 0” milestones. These would be called your “Level 1” milestones.

And it doesn’t stop there. What do I need to do to help 2.2?

2.2.1. Buy Bricks
2.2.2. Buy Cement
2.2.4. Buy Timber

Ok, ok, you hopefully get the gist – build the plan from the end, pick the key outcomes and get down into the detail.

You’ve now got a super-duper plan – right? No… life is never that easy my friend. Let’s talk resources…

Picking your people

​Now you’ve identified the tasks in hand, you need to assign them to someone. This could be you (if you have the skill set) or someone else. The most important thing here is the RIGHT person.​

But, how do I assemble the dream team? You wouldn’t ask your electrician to plumb in your bathroom would you?

​Find the right people and assign the right task. The dream team needs to have individuals with different skill sets that makes each task achievable. This gives the project manager the ability to delegate work to the appropriate member of the team; i.e. the decorator is in charge of decorating, the builder… well, builds.

By setting and assigning milestones, everyone knows how their work is contributing to that end goal.

​Now how do we know that said skilled people are doing what we need them to do? By …


When I say picking what I actually mean is monitoring and reporting.

​That age old saying of “what gets done gets reported” is absolutely true. Regular, weekly reporting on each of your milestones is crucial to know how your house build is getting on and crucially, what could make it not build the way you want it .

So, there it is – the three (not exhaustive) key areas of constructing an effective plan of action: picking your milestone, picking your people, and picking (you know what I mean!).

For more straight talking and information about outcome-based project services, please get in touch.

Posted almost 6 years ago
About the author:
Mark Pratt

Our blogs and insights help keep you up to date with market developments and regional news