Whether you’re working on a small project with modest business goals or a large, multi-departmental initiative with sweeping corporate implications, understanding the project management life cycle is essential. Every project has essential milestones at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, following a path from initiation to completion to evaluation.

Working with our project managers in the project management cycle will let you feel at ease knowing your project is organized and on track.

The purpose of a project plan is to help Project Managers (PM) execute and control their projects. A project plan will: reduce a complicated project into smaller components. establish a timeline with deadlines for each part of the project. provide a sequence for delivering each part of the project. be the baseline to measure progress against. become the default reference document for all stakeholders.

The project planning method need not be process-centric and document heavy. If you have authorization to proceed and budget, the next step is to plan the project’s course. Here is a practical approach for creating a visual project management plan.

Project managers need to understand the goals of the project they are executing. Goals are determined in the initial phase by management and stakeholders. They are typically created as high-level business statements that give a PM perspective for what the project is trying to achieve. Goals are un-measurable business statements that also define a benefit, for example: The goal of this project is to increase the product satisfaction level for all of our existing customers. Your project may be one of many others that are collectively working towards achieving this bigger business goal, however, it is important to understand them because the goal will be a reference to the objective of your project.

Objectives are specific to Project Managers. They are measurable and dead-lined statements that capture what the project is trying to achieve. For example: The objective of this project is improving our average tech-support response time to under 1 hour, for all existing customers, by implementing a new ticketing system by September 30th. The objective does not describe your deliverables but it will help you define them, which is the next step.

Identify your major strategic deliverable that achieves the objective, in our case it is: implementing a new ticketing system. Begin to decompose this deliverable into smaller more manageable tasks and further into subordinate tasks depending on complexity. Most often this is done on a list, but it can be more effective if you prepare something easier to visualize, such as putting your list into a table view or creating a work breakdown chart. The tasks you identify will be used to create a visual project plan.