Achieving Successful Projects: Project Planning and Review

Duncan Ross Russell
The vision of the Association for Project Management (APM) is ‘A world in which all projects succeed with project management as a life skill for all’, but how do we ensure that our projects succeed? In this third article of the series reviewing the APM’s five key project success factors, I discuss project planning and review.

Project Planning and Review

We all know that we need to plan but not all plans are good plans.  I have described how all projects will have multiple objectives; a good plan is one that achieves an optimal balance of the project objectives - we therefore need a mechanism to optimise the balance of achieving conflicting objectives. We also know as soon as we start a project, we will encounter unforeseen constraints and uncertainty - we therefore need a mechanism to manage uncertainty and continue to optimise the balance of achieving conflicting objectives.


One of my previous articles sets out the importance of Goals and Objectives to define a clear set of objectives to be delivered by the project and how all stakeholders will measure project success, confirming a common goal.  However, knowing where you are going is only the first step, you also need to know how you are going to get there and have the skills and resources to deal with the unforeseen along the way.

In planning the project, we are seeking to establish a philosophy that empowers team members to identify and understand their freedoms, thus encouraging innovation. This philosophy is achieved through empowering the team to understand:

  • What is my part? What business goals does my client want to achieve and what is my role in achieving these goals?
  • What are my tasks and resources?
    • Tasks: What must I do to accomplish my part in the client’s plan and what other tasks (specified and implied) do I need to carry out to complete the project?
    • Resources: What resources do I, or could I, have available?
  • What are my freedoms? What limitations (time, space and resources) are there on my freedom of action? What can I not do and when do I need to decide?
  • Has the situation changed?
    • No: Plan still valid, continue
    • Yes: Review plan


An effective review requires the ability to measure progress and assess the ongoing trajectory toward success.  As success is measured in terms of objectives, progress and trajectory should be measured in terms of our objectives.  This can be achieved through applying the principles of Value Management, which focus the project team on the ability of the plan to meet each objective, and enable the project team to measure both progress and trajectory towards those objectives.

This value model also allows informed decisions between options throughout the project by providing the project leadership with an assessment of the impact of each option on the project’s ability to deliver each objective as a contribution to the whole. The value model is an effective tool for managing uncertainty.  In considering the possible outcomes of different uncertainties, we can assess the impact on each project objective and assess the combined impact on optimised success, enabling us to manage uncertainty.

Project planning and review is less about developing a detailed, step-by-step list of activities that will take the project from concept to completion. Instead, project planning and review establishes a philosophy that empowers team members to understand their freedoms to deliver their contribution to success, alongside a methodology for measuring progress and trajectory towards that success.


Written by