Types Of Plans In Project Management

levels of planning

I just wrote about four types of projects based on how well defined is the goal (WHAT), and how well defined is the method to achieve it (HOW).

Types Of Plans In Project Management

Project type 1 is clearly defined and well understood; For example much recurring construction and engineering projects such as building or repairing homes, offices or roads. This technique for managing is well developed, and the Project Manager’s work speeds it through the most linear Initiation, Planning, Implementation and closing cycle.


Type 2 projects have clear objectives, but there is uncertainty as to how this can be achieved. Many organizational improvement projects fit this type; For example cost reductions, cycle-time improvements and customer service improvements. Product development projects and policies are also often like this.

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Project type 3 has a clear process, but unclear and often successful results can only be assessed at the end of the project, once the output is adopted by customers and users. Making movies, TV and radio programs has a well-developed process, but whether the result will be a blockbuster or a failure, is uncertain from the start. Many market research projects will also be like this; They have defined the process, but there is no way to know what the answer to this research will be. System and IT development projects often also include this type.

Project type 4 is the most complex project because there is nothing or how it is understood from the beginning. We may know “something needs to be done,” but not specific enough to know how to run the project. Many pure Research and Development (R & D) projects and Organizational Redesign and Change programs match this type. They can not be planned to the level of detail since the beginning because they require innovation and flexibility.
Three levels Planning:

All projects can be planned on three levels:

  • Aspiration (vision – end)
  • Guidance (Strategy – how)
  • Operational (Tactics – that is)

The four types of projects require Aspirational level planning. In practice, this means generating project definitions (PID / PDD – or the like) that illustrate the overall “shape” of the project and allowing the comparison of some potential projects that might compete for resources.

The four types can also be planned at the Guidance level by using milestone planning. Project types 1 and two are more likely to have milestones associated with the shipment, while Types 3 and four will have milestones associated with the completion of the life cycle stage or the main decision gate (“Go – No Go”).

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Type 1 projects can be planned at the operational level from an early stage, based on known activities to be undertaken (Gantt Charts, Critical Path, etc.).

Type 2 and three projects usually require a revolving wave approach for operational planning, establishing the level of detail when the initial product is delivered or when the early stages of the life cycle are completed.

Type 4 projects can not be planned at the Operational level and need to be transformed into Type 2 or 3 projects, in the end. Otherwise, they can not be implemented.

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Not all projects are the same, so please consider what kind of project you have before deciding how to plan it. You may need to educate Sponsors and other senior managers to understand that Gantt Chart may be inappropriate, or even possible!

Download full article on four types of projects and how to plan them (pdf).

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