Eight Simple Steps and Tips You Can Follow to Execute a Plan

Updated September 30, 2022

Part of the role of a project manager involves developing a plan to detail the steps and factors necessary to complete a project effectively. A well-defined plan with clear objectives and steps can promote the success of a project. If you're managing a project, it's often important to understand how to execute a plan successfully. In this article, we define how to execute a plan in eight simple steps and provide several tips to help you develop one for yourself.

Related: What Is a Project Management Plan? With Tips and Examples

How to execute a plan

Follow these steps to successfully execute a plan:

1. Gather information

The first step to creating a successful plan is gathering all the relevant information. This helps to determine the scope of the project. One of the best ways to do this is by meeting with the key stakeholders and other members of the project team. Some of the factors you may want to consider include:

  • Key deliverables of a project

  • Successful return on investment

  • Key milestones

  • Delivery timeframe of a project

  • Preferred client communication channels

  • Most important areas of focus of a project

  • Budget of a project

  • Problems requiring resolution

The information you gather is likely to inform the key aspects of your plan. It's also important to remember that while the plan may only focus on some of the information, the team may still find it helpful to know as much as possible. As a result, it may help to share any notes or documents you have with the rest of the project team to promote teamwork and increase productivity.

2. Identify the key resources

The second step in the planning process is to identify the key resources necessary to complete the project successfully. This includes determining the raw materials, personnel, and equipment involved. The type and number of resources often depends on the project's scope, scale, and objective. When you're working on a large project, it's useful to divide it into a series of smaller, more manageable tasks and then identify the resources for each task.

Most project management software programs can assist with this process. These software packages can help people with minimal experience in managing projects. Once you have software or a way to track your project, the next step is to identify where to get the resources and determine their costs. It's important to consider additional options for each resource in case a problem arises. Although this process takes time, it's worth the effort as it helps streamline the processes that follow and increases their efficacy.

3. Develop SMART goals

After completing these steps, you can develop the project goals. Most projects use SMART goals to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based objectives. A project manager typically considers each of these five factors as they develop the project goals:

  • Specific goals: When developing specific goals, it's important to clarify what's necessary to achieve them. Good examples of specific goals are ones that define certain deadlines or key milestones.

  • Measurable goals: Creating measurable goals is important since they help keep track of the project's progress and can improve the morale of the project team's members. Goals that include a measurable element, such as the number of items to produce or the number of sales during a month, are often ideal because you can easily monitor them as the project progresses.

  • Achievable goals: Achievable objectives can increase the motivation and confidence of the project team. When considering the achievability of a goal, it's important that you consider the time, resources, and personnel available and adjust if necessary.

  • Relevant goals: It's also important for you to consider the relevance of the project's objectives. This helps you prioritize the most important elements of the project and can assist with clarifying the guidelines for the team members.

  • Time-based goals: Developing a timeline for the project that defines the key deadlines and milestones is important for successful project management. It helps monitor the progression of the project and ensures it remains on schedule.

4. Create a framework

After creating the project's SMART goals, you can develop a framework. A framework involves dividing the project into smaller tasks. Creating SMART goals while identifying the necessary resources can provide a strong foundation for the project framework. Some adjustments may help align the framework to fit the specific needs of the project. Each step in the project becomes part of the framework, along with the timeframe and budget.

During this stage, you usually define the project team's guidelines and document any procedures fundamental to the project's success. For international projects, this may include selecting a common language to facilitate effective communication.

5. Assign tasks

The next step involves assigning the different project tasks to the appropriate personnel. Here, you typically consider the specialized skills of each team member and match them to certain tasks. Clearly defining each team member's role can increase their understanding of their tasks and responsibilities within the scope of the project. Understanding the capabilities of the team is important to help them realize their full potential. It also helps streamline the project and promotes efficacy.

6. Establish regular communication

Adequate communication is important for the success of a project. It helps monitor the project progression. Some project managers prefer to formalize this process, setting clear guidelines around their expectations. Others adopt a more informal approach. There are many different methods of communication you can consider:

  • E-mail

  • Video calls

  • Phone calls

  • In-person meetings

  • Discussion boards

  • Collaboration apps

  • Surveys

  • Status reports

Related: How to Create a Project Communication Plan (With Template)

7. Track progress

Clear communication channels can make it easier to track a project's progress. Monitoring the progress of a project can help resolve potential challenges before they escalate. To achieve this, it's important to establish key performance indicators. These can convey your expectations to the project team regarding their roles and responsibilities.

Key performance indicators generally cover four areas:

  • Timeliness: These indicators relate primarily to project scheduling and ensuring that the team meets the set deadlines. Various factors are relevant to measuring timeliness, such as project stages, hours worked, and any previous adjustments.

  • Budget: After setting the project budget, you can use it as a baseline to measure the project's progress. This may include monitoring budget variance, budget iterations, or the cost performance index.

  • Quality: Maintaining the quality of the project is important. When monitoring the quality, it may be beneficial to incorporate client feedback. This can include satisfaction scores or any other feedback.

  • Efficacy: When measuring efficacy, you may consider the number of completed milestones, team performance, adherence to the budget, the necessary adjustments, and the billable utilization.

8. Evaluate performance

The final step in executing a plan is to evaluate performance. At the end of a project, the team usually meets and discusses the aspects of the project that went well and the areas requiring improvement. The primary purpose of this meeting is to learn from the project so that future projects are easier and more efficient each time. During the meeting, you can discuss some of the following:

  • Schedules

  • Cost

  • Quality

  • Stakeholder or client satisfaction

  • Business case performance

A project manager typically completes a final report detailing all aspects of the project, which they provide to the key stakeholders and project team.

Related: Create an Effective Work Plan for a Successful Project (With Template)

Tips to help execute a plan successfully

Here are some tips to help you execute your next plan successfully:

  • Document the plan: It's important to document your plan and make this information available to the project team and key stakeholders. The plan helps clarify the goals, individual roles and responsibilities, budgets, and scheduling.

  • Create clear communication channels: Clear communication channels between those managing the project and the team members are important to execute a plan successfully. These channels allow the sharing of important information and potential challenges, which promote efficiency and productivity.

  • Invest in the proper tools: Many products are available that can assist you with project communication, efficiency, budgeting, and scheduling. Due to the wide range of products, it's important to match the tools with the scale and type of your project.

  • Develop a backup plan: Some parts of a project may be challenging. Being proactive and developing a backup plan helps to keep the project on track by making sure the team can handle any new or unexpected situations.

  • Flexibility is key: A good project manager is typically aware that challenges may arise despite extensive project planning. When this happens, it's important to be flexible and react in a calm, professional manner to minimize the impact and help the project progress according to schedule.


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