In my opinion there should be a written project plan for every project. Each person who writes a Project Plan will have their own ideas of what should go into a Project Plan and how to use it.
It’s possible that a project plan can be changed once a project is underway. In that sense the project plan is only “final” when the project is done. It is meant to be a practical, useful planning document.
These are just my suggestions. Feel free to use some, all or none of these. They are my gift to you.
What should the project plan include? How much detail should there be on each part? That is up to the Project Leader.
I recommend that each project plan should include, at minimum:
#1) a statement of who the project leader is and at least the people known to be interested in working on the project,
#2) the primary and secondary goals of the project,
#3) a short statement of the purpose of the project right at the beginning,
#4) the resources, such as websites, sources of information,
#5) what has already been done on this project (usually something has already been done), including correspondence,
#6) the 5 Ws that reporters use, (who, what, where, when, why and how for good measure). The steps to be taken are to be described in terms of the 5 Ws.
#7) what reason(s) do we have to believe that this project plan will work? Will it work? Is it just wishful thinking or is there a good reason to believe that the project plan will work? Will this project achieve its stated goals? How and why? Has something similar to this been tried? Are we relying on overly optimistic projections, possibly by people who have a vested interest in telling us that something will work? If we gloss over this step then we are not taking project planning seriously.
#8) the expected financial costs and benefits, if known,
#9) the expected non financial costs and benefits and the likelihood of each (this section in good detail),
#10) a discussion of the background including what has been done on similar projects, if known, within or outside of AE. In other words the context.
#11) the commitment that the person proposing the project is making, including dates. That commitment can be conditional if necessary (on getting some help, described in medium detail).
#12) an estimated time line including date of completion.
How to use this: in my opinion the Project Leader and the Team Leader and 1 or 2 people deeply interested in and committed to working on this project should develop the project plan. The Project Leader should then send the project plan out to the other Team Leaders for their comments and suggestions and with the understanding that NOT every suggestion is going to result in a change to the project plan. Some will and some won’t. The Project Leader should make those decisions. Once this is done the Project Leader should send the project out to the CEO for his approval, with or without more changes, or rejection, assuming that the CEO in the organization requires all project plans to be approved by him or her.
Once the CEO approves the project plan it will be considered the organization’s go ahead (green light) to do what was in the project plan. If there are significant changes to the project plan those should be sent to the CEO for approval as before and optionally to the Team Leaders again.
When the project is complete there should be an assessment of what worked well and what did not, what was achieved and what was not achieved, and “What did we learn?” Learning from the completed projects or completed steps of projects is essential for an organization to improve.