Good news! There is a way to provide a clear path forward to execute your project strategy and manage roadblocks effectively to prevent your project from sinking into failure.
Better still, there are tools to help you with this notoriously fiddly phase of project management.
And we’re here to introduce one such tool, the project execution plan (PEP).
What is a project execution plan (PEP)?
A project execution plan (PEP) translates project strategy into specific tasks and deliverables.
The PEP clarifies team members involved and their roles and tracks timelines, project costs, and task dependencies in real-time.
All these efforts help to improve your project’s chances of successful delivery. By clearly mapping out the execution phase, you can plan and respond to potential roadblocks.
Having critical information like budgets, timelines, and milestone tracking laid out in a structured document also aids communication with your project directors, stakeholders, and project team members. It gives them the confidence that you have everything under control as a project manager.
Let’s go into each of the critical benefits of having a project execution plan.
Key benefits of creating a project execution plan for any business
A PEP helps you assign tasks and responsibilities.
Consider what happens when there’s no clear ownership of tasks in a project. To illustrate, you may have heard this
about what happens when there’s a lack of leadership.
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.
The moral of the story? No one takes responsibility, so nothing is done. A project execution plan helps you avoid this situation from happening.
A PEP makes it easy to set expectations, deliverables, and deadlines.
A project execution plan is a powerful communication tool.
People get confused, misinterpret what was said, or forget things. As the project manager, you ideally know all the details of the project you’re managing. But how you align your team on your project goals and set expectations around deadlines is a whole other challenge.
With a project execution plan, you have a single source of truth. It helps identify gaps in knowledge, set expectations around next steps and deadlines, and track progress.
A PEP can help you get back on track if you hit any roadblocks.
Projects face a few everyday speed bumps during execution:
Misaligned or vague expectations
Missed deadlines, especially if tasks are dependent on work from someone else. There’s a risk of a single task dependency causing a domino effect of missed deadlines throughout the entire project
Managing these speed bumps effectively is part of any project manager’s role. Using a project execution plan during your team review meetings helps you check progress regularly, clarify doubts, and prevent issues from escalating.
A PEP ensures every team member has a fair workload.
Another benefit of having everyone’s tasks outlined on a single page is allowing you to see if a team member is overloaded or underloaded.
Both scenarios aren’t great for both individual and team morale and can lead to resentment, lack of motivation, and more. A project execution plan helps you manage your team’s health, energy, and brainpower for maximum effectiveness.
A PEP is adaptable and customizable to your project’s needs.
The PEP is also a living document, not a set-it-and-forget-it initiative. It should adapt to the changing needs of your project as you execute your project.
It’s also customizable to your preferred project management methodology. Depending on your project needs, you can adjust the details in your PEP to suit your needs.
Add these features to your PEP if your project contains the following:
Managing a large group of subcontractors: Include their contact details and responsibilities in a
8 tips for building a successful project execution plan
1. Define a clear project scope of work.
A defined project scope identifies aims and sets out tasks while avoiding scope creep.
Don’t be afraid to get specific here. Work with other stakeholders or teams involved in your project to ensure you’re all on the same page.
Consider including these elements in your project scope:
A clear project statement of work (SOW): The statement of work gives an overview of the project before you get to planning and executing. Break down the roles and responsibilities of your team members. Set out requirements, acceptance criteria, and payment details here to share with everyone involved in the project.
Resource or information constraints: List limitations or boundaries that may affect the final project outcome. Doing this helps everyone be aware of potential project risks and delays upfront. Consider including a
Timelines and intermediate milestones: Timeline estimates help stakeholders know how long individual tasks take.
Information on deliverables: What does the final deliverable look like after completing the project? Is it a new feature enhancement, a new sales-ready service, or a report? Identify what your project will produce upon completion.
Success criteria: How do you plan to measure the project’s success? List out your KPIs and how you plan to measure them here
2. Identify technical and quality specifications relevant to the project.
If you refer to quality and technical standards during your project, be sure to write out a clear definition of the applicable terms and concepts to avoid confusion.
It may be helpful to think through all the industry terms and acronyms you use and list them out, along with a clear definition for each to make it easy for everyone to understand. Using descriptive language, numbers, and measurements help make definitions more precise.
3. Determine goals and deliverables.
The goal section defines what your team hopes to complete within the project.
To break this down further, answer these questions:
Why are you carrying out this project?
What are your project objectives?
What business goals will this project support?
How will this project generate the desired outcomes?
What deliverables can stakeholders expect after project completion?
Beyond defining project goals, write in a way that resonates with your audience.
Discuss rough sketch for the layout with UI/UX designer
Draft copy for form with a copywriter
Review with the head of marketing
Upon approval, pass design files to the development team
Push to beta site/production site
Each task should also have its deliverable and review/evaluation process for transparent tracking.
How big should a project task be?
Reference from the 8-80 hour rule of project management: make your tasks no shorter than 8 hours and no longer than 80 hours. Tasks on the lower end can fall into micromanagement, whereas the higher end risks overwhelming the team.
But how do I estimate task durations accurately?
You may not know how long something takes, especially if it’s beyond your expertise. Ask the people working on the tasks for a precise estimate and involve them in the project planning. They can help estimate task durations, help with dependencies, and advise on any bottlenecks.
5. Assign project roles and clear owners to each task, flagging any task dependencies.
Look at the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and delegate your tasks accordingly. Each task should have a clear owner within your team. Ideally, tasks assigned should also fall within your team member’s range of expertise.
Having clear task owners helps the entire project move along. You’ll be able to develop a timeline for completion, outline any dependencies or give your team flexibility to arrange their working sessions, especially if they’re working on related tasks or together on a single task.
6. Flag task dependencies.
A task dependency is when you need to complete other tasks before starting on a task. For example, you can’t build the ceilings before the walls when constructing a house.
You might encounter several types of task dependencies within your project. Here’s
according to the Project Management Institute (PMI):
Mandatory: Dependencies that are legally required or tasks that cannot progress until you’ve completed other tasks.
Discretionary: The team can still progress without discretionary tasks completed. For example, you could design a form before the landing page or the other way around.
External: External dependencies need input from an external source outside the project team before proceeding. Typical examples include approvals from industry authorities, buy-in from senior management, or waiting for an external vendor or contractor’s input before proceeding. You may or may not have control over these external inputs.
Internal These are dependencies between different activities or teams within the project. For example, if you have a website design project, the front-end development team needs the final design files from the designer for them to start working on their tasks.
Review your list of tasks and identify dependencies to build an accurate workflow according to these four categories.
7. Include a communications plan to communicate clearly with your team, project sponsors, and external stakeholders.
Communication is the heart of effective project management, whether with your project team or external stakeholders.
In step seven, you’ll need to coordinate a large group of people, ensuring everyone is clear about their goals. Consider how you're going to handle project reporting to your project sponsors or authority figures commissioning the project. And use a communications plan to outline the process and expectations around communication to avoid leaving any crucial information out.
When building your communication plan, think about:
Stakeholder communications requirements: What are they looking for in this project, and what do their stakeholders want from them?
What and how to communicate: Think about the format, content to cover, and level of detail to go into.
How and how often will your communication reach your stakeholder? Is it an informal bi-weekly email sent from the project manager? Or is this a monthly meeting for stakeholders to review a detailed report?
Information access and retrieval: Where will previous reports and meeting minutes be stored and retrieved?
charts. Refer back to your progress metrics, milestones, or project schedule you set out during the earlier steps of project scope planning. Map your actual progress against these metrics and timelines.
Regular progress reviews: Set up a regular cadence with your team to go through progress, identify blockers and keep up team health while working towards completion.
If you’re unsure where to start with defining a team meeting cadence, use these meeting structures to make your life easier.
Regular project team meetings: Schedule daily or weekly meetings with your team members. Establish a regular team communication schedule, like a daily standup meeting or asynchronous updates via your communication tool of choice. Get regular updates on task statuses and quickly get your team members to bring blockers to your attention to address.
One-on-one meetings: This tried-and-tested format allows you to personally meet with people who don’t speak much during broader team meetings in private. You’ll often get insights in private that people are less willing to share in public settings. Use these to understand the overall alignment between team members and project scope or team member morale.
Sub-team meetings: This method is beneficial when you’re managing task dependencies or when your project enters a phase that puts a heavy responsibility on a particular role. For example, design teams go through
Plan and execute your projects successfully with done-for-you templates
Now that you know how to build a project execution plan, here are a few ready-made templates to help you at each stage of your project planning process. Mix, match, and combine as needed these project management templates to develop your PEP.
. This template helps you break down your project deliverables into defined phases and specific actions. We’ve also included clear columns to allocate team responsibilities, track budgets, and define start/end dates for each task.
With this project table, you and your team will have complete visibility over project roles and responsibilities.
Project scoping template
Accurate project scoping is tricky, and mistakes at this stage can have repercussions throughout the project’s lifecycle. This
fits all you need for your project in one visually appealing dashboard.
What you can do with this template:
Quickly add and track to-dos
Add in notes and ideas whenever inspiration strikes you
Track multiple projects within the same dashboards
Project execution plan FAQs
What are the stages of project execution?
Project management execution has several stages;
Scoping and project kickoff: In this stage, the project manager defines what’s in scope and out of range of a project while setting timelines and milestones. Managers also define goals and their associated metrics to measure progress.
Translating goals and milestones into actionable tasks: Once the project has a clear purpose, project managers then break down project milestones and deliverables into actionable tasks, assigning actionable tasks to team members, flagging task dependencies, and what may affect the progress the project.
Monitoring and measuring project progress: Once tasks are straightforward, the project begins. Project managers then shift to a mentor and facilitating role, checking in with team members to ensure project details remain clear. They also remove blockers, clarify objectives and report progress to everyone involved until the project is completed.
What are the factors that affect project execution?
Common project blockers include delays during the execution process, unclear expectations on timelines or deliverables, resource or budget constraints, and mismanagement of scope creep. A competent project manager considers all these factors during the project execution planning phase. While it’s impossible to factor in all possible aspects and guarantee success, planning for delays and having a clear execution plan in place will help raise your likelihood of project success.
How do you effectively plan and execute a project?
First, identify your key project stakeholders. Discuss their needs and expectations and include their input in your project scope. You’ll need this information to set clear goals for your project, prioritize stakeholder needs, and ensure alignment between their needs and your project goals.
Next, define your deliverables based on your goals. Break these down into tasks, map tasks to a project schedule, and identify who will be responsible for each job. Tools like our