As soon as the project manager has received his brief or project instructions, he must produce a document which distils what is generally a vast amount of information into a concise, informative and well-organized form that can be distributed to all members of the project team and indeed all the stakeholders in the project. This document is called a project management plan (PMP), but is also sometimes just called a project plan, or in some organizations a coordination procedure.

The PMP is one of the key documents required by the project manager and his/her team. It lists the phases and encapsulates all the main parameters, standards and requirements of the project in terms of time, cost and quality/performance by setting out the ‘Why’, ‘What’, ‘When’, ‘Who’, ‘Where’ and ‘How’ of the project. In some organizations the PMP also includes the ‘How much’, that is the cost of the project. There may, however, be good commercial reasons for restricting this information to key members of the project team.

The contents of a PMP vary depending on the type of project. While it can run to several volumes for a large petrochemical project, it need not be more than a slim binder for a small, unsophisticated project.

There are, however, a number of areas and aspects which should always feature in such a document. With the permission of the British Standards Institution, the main headings of what is termed the Model Project Plan are given below, but augmented and rearranged in the sections given above.


  1. Foreword
  2. Contents, distribution and amendment record
  3. Introduction
    1. Project diary
    2. Project history

The Why

  1. Project aims and objectives
    1. Business case

The What

  1. General description
    1. Scope
    2. Project requirement
    3. Project security and privacy
    4. Project management philosophy
    5. Management reporting system

The When

  1. Programme management
    1. Programme method
    2. Program software
    3. Project life cycle
    4. Key dates
    5. Milestones and milestone slip chart
    6. Bar chart and network if available

The Who

  1. Project organization
  2. Project resource management
  3. Project team organization
    1. Project staff directory
    2. Organizational chart
    3. Terms of reference (TOR)
      1. for staff
      2. for the project manager
      3. for the committees and working group

The Where

  1. Delivery requirements
    1. Site requirements and conditions
    2. Shipping requirements
    3. Major restrictions

The How

  1. Project approvals required and authorization limits
  2. Project harmonization
  3. Project implementation strategy
    1. Implementation plans
    2. System integration
    3. Completed project work
    4. Acceptance procedure
    5. Procurement strategy
      1. Cultural and environmental restraints
      2. Political restraints
      3. Contract management
      4. Communications management
      5. Configuration management
        1. Configuration control requirements
        2. Configuration management system
        3. Financial management
        4. Risk management
          1. Major perceived risks
          2. Technical management
          3. Tests and evaluations
            1. Warranties and guarantees
            2. Reliability management (see also BS 5760: Part 1)
              1. Availability, reliability and maintainability (ARM)
              2. Quality management
              3. Health and safety management
              4. Environmental issues
              5. Integrated logistic support (ILS) management
              6. Close-out procedure

The numbering of the main headings should be standardized for all projects in the organization. In this way the reader will quickly learn to associate a clause number with a subject. This will not only enable him/her to find the required information quickly, but will also help the project manager when he/she has to write the PMP. The numbering system will in effect serve as a convenient checklist. If a particular item or heading is not required, it is best simply to enter ‘not applicable’ (or NA), leaving the standardized numbering system intact.

Apart from giving all the essential information about the project between two covers, for quick reference, the PMP serves another very useful function. In many organizations the scope, technical and contractual terms of the project are agreed in the initial stages by the proposals or sales department. It is only when the project becomes a reality that the project manager is appointed. By having to assimilate all these data and write such a PMP (usually within two weeks of the hand-over meeting), the project manager will inevitably obtain a thorough understanding of the project requirements as he/she digests the often voluminous documentation agreed with the client or sponsor.

Clearly not every project requires the exact breakdown given in this list and each organization can augment or expand this list to suit the project. If there are any subsequent changes, it is essential that the PMP is amended as soon as changes become apparent so that every member of the project team is immediately aware of the latest revision. These changes must be numbered on the amendment record at the front of the PMP and annotated on the relevant page and clause with the same amendment number or letter.

The contents of the project management plan are neatly summarized in the first verse of the little poem from the Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling:

  • I keep six honest serving-men
  • (They taught me all I knew);
  • Their names are What and Why and When,
  • And How and Where and Who.

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