5 April, 2021

8-step Project Success Plan: Your Essential Project Management Template

By Mike Clayton

5 April, 2021

Eight Steps, project management

You’re a new Project Manager with a new project. And the one thing you want is to be able to deliver your project successfully. What you need most is a simple project success plan that can get you where you need to be.

It isn’t uncommon for experienced managers and professionals to get tasked with delivering a project. Sometimes you will have done other projects before, but this one is bigger, more complex, or the consequences of success or failure are greater. Maybe you have never done a project at all, and the whole thing seems a little daunting. You need the Project Management essentials, and you need them now.

So, in this article, I’ll set out my simple 8-step process. It offers you a template for project success.

Don’t worry: that’s what we are here for. Let’s work our way through all of the Project Management essentials, one step at a time. So you can feel more confident about your project’s success.

Project Success in a Nutshell

I know you are busy. so, you may not want to read all of this article – although it is one of our shorter ones! You should though, because there are a lot of details that go into real project success.

But, if you just want the good stuff, check out this four-minute video…

8-step Project Success Plan: Your Essential Project Management Template

The 8 steps we will cover are:

  1. What is Your Project all About?
  2. Does Your Project Make Sense?
  3. Who Will Determine Your Success of Failure?
  4. How Will You Deliver Your Project?
  5. Engage Your Project Team
  6. Shift Happens! So, Prepare for it
  7. Stay in Control During Implementation
  8. Close Your Project in an Orderly Way

This eight-step project success formula forms the basis of my introductory book on Project management, ‘How to Manage a Great Project’.

Project Success Step 1: Answer the question:

What is Your Project all About?

Your first task will be to define very clearly what your project is, and what it is not. You won’t be able to proceed securely without this. Whilst there are many components to a full project definition, three are far more important than all the rest: your goal (sometimes referred to as your aim), your objectives, and your scope.


Start by getting a definitive statement of what your project will set out to create or do. This is your goal, or aim. Among your Project Management essentials, there is nothing more fundamental than this. We often articulate our goal in terms of a change or transformation, so start by thinking about what will be different when your project is complete and successful.


Once you have your goal, start to put some detail against it with objectives. These are the time, cost, and quality criteria you want your project to meet. When do you need to deliver your project, what budget will you have to work within, and what are the quality standards you must meet? It will also be essential to know which of these your boss, client, or sponsor considers to be the most critical to your success.


Your scope sets out the breadth and depth of your ambitions; the amount of work that you will need to do on your project. What will you be aiming to do, and what will you be leaving out? I often think that negotiating your project scope is the hardest of all the Project Management essentials. Everyone will have a different opinion about what is vital, important, and desirable. In a world of limited resources, you will need to disappoint some of them.

Negotiating your #Project scope is the hardest of all the Project Management essentials Click To Tweet

Defining your Project is the first of our Project Management essentials. For more information about this, you may want to take a look at our article on creating a clear Project Brief.

Creating a Robust Project Definition

If it matters to you to get this right, then we have exactly the right resource. Our Project Manager’s Project Definition Kit is an innovative course and resource kit, so you can take a jumble of ideas, needs, and requests and turn it into a well-defined project.

The Resources You Need to Help You to Project Success, at Step 1

Start with…

What is a Project Definition? | Video

More Core Content…

All of the definitions you need – and more – are in our Free Academy of Project Management course on Project Definition.

Additional Information…

For Structured Learning, take a Look at our Project Definition Kit

Project Definition Kit

Take a jumble of ideas, needs, and requests and turn it into a well-defined project brief.

Project Success Step 2: Next, you’ll need to answer the question:

Does Your Project Make Sense?

Before you proceed with your project, it is crucial to know whether it makes commercial sense. That is, does the value of your projected outcomes exceed what you anticipate will be the costs and risks of your project? And don’t be fooled into thinking this only matters in commercial organizations. If you are working within a not-for-profit organization or a branch of public service, it is equally important that your Project can satisfy the value-for-money test.

But commercial sense means more than money. If your organization is going to invest its time, resources, and energy into a project; you will need to demonstrate that your project is properly aligned with the organization’s own goals, strategy, and values. If it is not, then you risk delivering a project that will damage the long-term interests of your organization.

The document we use to record both why your Project makes sense and therefore why your organization should undertake it, is called a Business Case, or a Project Proposal, and this is the second of our Project Management essentials.

The Resources You Need to Help You to Project Success, at Step 2

Start with…

Project Business Case: Write an Effective Project Proposal | Video

More Core Content…

Additional Information…

The advanced end of this discipline is Benefits Management. You will need to understand benefits and how to manage them, as you start to manage larger projects:

And we have a Course: Project Benefits Management

Project Benefits Management

Our organizations and clients are investing a lot in their projects. So, they will be right to expect us to realize the benefits that those projects promise.

Project Success Step 3: It’s time to discover:

Who Will Determine Your Success or Failure?

This question will start you off on the third of our Project Management essentials: engaging with your Stakeholders – often referred to as Stakeholder Management. These are the people who have an interest in your project. They may support what you are doing, oppose it, or be neutral in some way.

What you can be sure of is that they will know things and have opinions that can be valuable to your project success. So make it your business to listen to them, learn from them, and above all, always to treat them with respect.

It is easy to start your project with the best of intentions. You will consult your stakeholders early on, to help determine your goal, objectives, and scope. And you will harness their insights to help you to build your business case, with which to promote your Project. However, it takes discipline to maintain constant positive engagement throughout your Project. But, if you want your project to have the greatest chance of success, you must do that. This means making a Stakeholder Engagement Plan, working to it, and keeping it up-to-date, throughout your project.

Project Success Step 4: Now you need to figure out:

How will You Deliver Your Project?

There is a logical sequence you can follow to answer this question. Once you have done so, you will have the basic Project Plans that you will need, to set up your project’s success and manage your project.

Start by identifying all the tasks you will need to get done. Then, for each one, estimate how long it will take. Next, arrange your tasks into a sequence, to give you your project time-line.

The next thing to think about is the resources you will need: the materials, assets, and people. You may want to take the time to do more than just list them; to specify each one. From this, you will be able to calculate your budget. By combining this with your timeline, you will also be able to create a cash flow schedule.

For more details, check this video – and also our detailed articles and resources.

Planning your project, in terms of activities, schedule and resources, is the fourth of our Project Management essentials.

Project Success Step 5: Unless you are able to deliver your project on your own, you will need to:

Engage Your Project Team

Your four primary functions, as a team leader, are to recruit your team, brief them, motivate them, and manage them. To do this, you will need to get to know each person individually, and also build a sense of common team purpose. Having a clear plan, and communicating it well, will really help you.

A lot of words have been written and spoken about the relationship between management and leadership, but to me, as an experienced Project Manager, it seems very simple. The fifth essential step to project success is leadership. That is; unless you are working alone, you cannot manage a project with put leading the people on the project.

And if there is one thing that really stuck from all my Project Leadership experiences, the fundamental factor will be you: how you come across to your team. Never underestimate the impact that your mood, your confidence, your optimism, and your determination will have on your team.

The Resources You Need to Help You to Project Success, at Step 5

Start with…

The Four Essentials of Project Team Leadership

More Core Content…

Additional Information…

More for a Focus on Leadership…

And We Have a Course on Day-to-Day Project Leadership

Day-to-Day Leadership that Gets Results

I was once a new project leader. So, I know the challenge of going from a delivery role to your first leadership role. It doesn’t matter how good you are at doing stuff: leading a project – and the people on it – is something new.

Project Success Step 6: It’s critical that you acknowledge that:

Shift Happens! So, Prepare for it

Risk is fundamental to the nature of a Project (learn more about what a project is). As a result, Risk Management is very definitely the sixth of our eight essentials for project success.

The process is simple.

  1. First, identify all potential risks.
  2. Second, understand the extent of each risk; its likelihood, and its severity.
  3. Then, for each one, develop a plan to actively manage that risk.
  4. Finally, the crucial fourth step in managing risks is to take action. Once you have done this, reassess your risk and revise your plan.

With such a simple process, the challenge is in the implementation: finding the risks, assessing them robustly, and – often the bit that gets missed – the diligence to keep taking action until you have reduced the threat sufficiently. Risk management is so fundamental to good project management, it is a sub-discipline in its own right.

Project Success Step 7: Now it is time to deliver your project. When you do, it is critical that you:

Stay in Control During Implementation

The delivery stage of your project is where people often think that Project Management begins. I hope it will be obvious to you that the bulk of our 8 steps to project success pave the way for this step.

Nonetheless, no matter how well you have planned and prepared, implementation will be a busy time, with lots happening. Your priority, as a Project Manager, is to stay in control. This means you need to be constantly monitoring what is happening. As soon as you spot the smallest problem, you need to assess what is going on, what is causing the problem, and what you can do to set your project back on the right track.

This constant cycle of monitoring and adjusting your project is the ‘Monitor and Control Loop or ‘Monitor and Control Cycle’. It is the beating heart of your project during the delivery stage.

The Monitor and Control Cycle is the beating heart of your #project during the delivery stage. Click To Tweet

But there are also other priorities during the delivery stage of your project. The four you will spend most time on are:

  • Leading your team 
    Which we covered above
  • Engaging your stakeholders
    Which we covered above.
  • Reporting on progress
    This is an essential part of project communications and good governance.
  • Dealing with requests for change
    It is naive to think you can freeze your project requirements at the end of the planning stage. But you do need to exert proper control over requests for change, to avoid the equally problematic errors of responding positively to every request, or saying no to all requests.

Project Success Step 8: When you have completed delivery of your project, you need to:

Close Your Project in an Orderly Way

The Delivery Stage of your successful project ends with the handover of the products (deliverables) to the new owner.

Now you need to close your project down.

This is the eighth of our steps to project success because, if you don’t do this, the loose ends can dissipate a lot of energy, and waste a lot of time.

It starts with Project Handover – where you handover the products, or deliverables, to the new beneficial owner. It is also good practice to:

  • Document your project and what the team has learned
  • Finish off all of the outstanding admin
  • Debrief your team members individually and, as important as all the rest
  • Always remember to celebrate your project completion with your team

The Resources You Need to Help You to Project Success, at Step 8

Start with…

Project Closure: Your Complete Guide to How to Close-down Your Project

More Core Content…

These Eight Steps lie at the Heart of all of our Core Project Management Courses

We have different levels of course,depending on your needs, and if you get it wrong, our easy upgrade promise means you’ll never be out of pocket if you need to upgrade later on. Do take a look at our core Project Management courses.

Core Project Management Programs

Other Basic Priorities

These eight steps are the absolute Project Management essentials. But we have written other articles designed to focus beginner Project Managers on the basics. Some other articles you may like include:

What have we missed?

Do you think I have missed out a step that is critical for project success? If so, pease do add your comments below. I respond to every comment we receive.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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