Project Management Playbook Ebook

Project Management Playbook – Let’s get this project started!

In my book, the PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running and Shutting Down, I thought it was critically important for PMO Managers to have a Project Management playbook as a tool for project managers in their organizations. See, many PMOs have project management as one of their fundamental methodologies and so having a common set of processes to follow is important. Let’s dive into this topic now.

History of Project Management Playbooks

I started managing my first PMO in the early 2000s, and one of my focuses mainly because I came from project management myself was on consistency. I thought it was important that project managers delivered their projects with a level of rigor and consistency so my PMO could properly scale. Well, ten PMOs later and many-many years and I can say I was not wrong.

The PMO at the time, early 2000s had 15 FTE and vendor project managers, each running a series of projects, and not one of them did things the same way. They were using their own processes, status reports, color conditions…etc. My role as PMO Manager taking over this PMO was to get this clean up fast! Some of the vendor project managers would bring best practices from their companies, some of the PMO employees had their own processes and there was no consistency. It was a mess! I needed to put something in place so I could keep control, understand the projects in my PMO, and drive a level of consistency on how all project managers will manage their projects. Hence, the birth of a Project Management playbook!

So, I have lots of history and passion in this space, and excited about sharing it today!

Project Management Playbooks

When I think about project management playbooks, I must think about the foundation of what we need in how we execute our projects. Therefore, when I wrote my PMO book, the foundation was on PMI’s knowledge areas. Now, I understand that the knowledge areas are gone, and frankly to me that is a huge mistake that will affect the industry for years, but that’s for a different time and place. However, I think they are critical and the foundation on how I built my project management playbook.

Project Management Playbook - Let's get this project started!

So, giving the fact I believe knowledge areas are critical to running projects, that is how I broke down the playbook in this article and in my books. Just as you would run a project in a real project, I think it is critical that we approach it this way in how I developed the playbook to make it easy to follow along. These include:

  • Project Initiating
  • Project Planning
  • Project Executing and Project Controlling Processes
  • Project Closing

Ok, ready to get started on our project management Playbook?

Project Management Playbook

Project Management Playbook

It all starts as noted about with the project initiating process. Let’s look at that now.

Project Initiating Process

The project-initiating process is extremely important. Project managers who do this process right tend to be more successful. This process involves several steps and deliverables, which are listed next. This list is simply a starting point. Every industry, every organization, and even every project might be different. There is no way to develop a single comprehensive list that covers every possibility. However, the tasks and deliverables listed will apply to most, if not all, projects, and serve as an excellent starting point. Note that the order in which the steps in this checklist (and other similar checklists in this chapter) are taken is not important, as long as the necessary deliverables are completed.

  • Create the project charter document: Most projects, with few exceptions, require a project charter document. This document lists the scope, objective, and participants. Some companies have their own project charter templates, or you can find them on the web.
  • Develop a project-management plan: This plan includes all the major steps to drive the project. Common items include resource-management, communication-management, and scope-management plans, and so on. Some companies have their own project-management plan templates, or you can find them on the web.
  • Develop project-kickoff materials: Most companies have pre-defined processes and procedures for kicking off a project, which typically vary from industry to industry. Make sure you understand these and complete them at this time.
  • Obtain project budget information and create a budget spreadsheet: It is imperative to understand the budget from the beginning of the project, and to establish a reporting process. Project managers must report the financial status of the project throughout the life of the project. The frequency of these reports will vary depending on the type of project. For a multiple-year project, a monthly report will likely be adequate. For a shorter project, weekly might be more appropriate.
  • Develop an initial project schedule with initial dates and high-level deliverables: It is important to have at least a high-level schedule at the beginning of the project.
  • Develop a lessons-learned process and repository: Collecting and storing lessons learned enables project managers to make course corrections. They can also apply these lessons to future projects. It’s far better to track this data from the beginning of the project than to scramble to collect it at the end, when team members have moved on to other efforts.
  • Create a centralized project repository for storing all project information: This centralized location is for sharing project information, so everyone on the project has access to the information they need. This can be an internal website, a shared directory, a drive, and so on.
  • Develop a project communications plan: This plan includes all aspects of how project managers will communicate project information.
  • Develop a project roles and responsibilities document: This document ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding roles and responsibilities throughout the life of the project. It’s important to create this document early in the project to avoid confusion among team members.
  • Prepare purchase orders and any other acquisition-type documents: This is the time to define what resources you need (staff or otherwise) and to start the process of obtaining them.
  • Develop the project’s change-control process: This process will be used throughout the life of the project, so it’s important to create it before things get too far along. This involves developing all necessary templates, forms, and processes, including the process for obtaining approvals for changes. Some companies have their own change-control processes in place, or you can find examples of these processes online.
  • Develop a project-governance process: All projects require a governance process to ensure that stakeholders and management are aligned and tracking with the direction of the project.
  • Develop a project-escalation process: This process gives project teams a path to management and stakeholders to make decisions, provide status, and guide the direction of the project.
  • Develop the project organization chart: An organization chart is simple to create, but incredibly powerful. It enables team members and management to see who is on the team and what everyone’s role is.
  • Develop a project status-reporting process: This includes developing an initial project status report, defining the template, setting timeframes for report delivery, working with the customer to find out what they want to see in the report, and so on. Project managers should also work with project leads to set their status-reporting process as well.
  • Develop a resource plan: This is the perfect time to review and document any and all resources required for the project. You should complete this plan before the planning process because of the time it takes to obtain resources and because the planning cycles for most projects are quite short. You don’t want to be missing key resources at critical times in the project!
  • Develop a quality-management plan: During this early phase, the quality of the product, service, or result is often the last thing on anyone’s mind. This explains why developing this plan is often left to the end (or is never done at all). This is a mistake. The project manager should develop a quality-management plan during the initiating process to get people thinking about quality early in the project’s lifecycle.
  • Develop the scope-management plan: Scope is often one of the most challenging project components to manage. It’s particularly tough without a plan in place that outlines how you will manage changes to scope through the life of the project.
  • Develop an action-item log: Action items are very important to project delivery. Having a formal log to assign and track action items is critical to keeping projects organized and on track.
  • Create a project transition-plan template: The project manager creates a project transition-plan template for each of their projects. The purpose of this document is to act as a transition plan in the event one project manager leaves and another one takes over. This document should be kept up to date at all times.
  • Develop project milestone presentation templates: Project milestone presentations are delivered for all major project milestones. Project managers should take an active role in driving the creation and use of these presentations for their projects.
  • Develop training plans for key processes and tools implemented during this phase: It is important that training plans and materials are created for any new processes or tools created during this phase.

Once you have the project initiated, you then move to planning phase of the project. This is one of the most missed phases of how projects are ran today because of the pace to which projects are started but so critical. Let’s look at the steps of a the project planning project that is critical for any project manager playbook.

Project Planning Process

The planning process is one of the shortest processes in the project’s lifecycle. However, it’s extremely important. During this process, the project manager establishes how they will run the project.

Many project managers try to blow right past this process. They spend much more time in the initiating process than they do in the planning process, even though planning is arguably the most important process. If you don’t plan the project properly, you will have loads of problems when it comes time to execute and control it!

The following tasks and deliverables are specific to project planning:

  • Update and enhance the master project schedule: During the planning process, the project plan continues to be refined, with major deliverables added. Resources and assignments are also refined. This allows for the creation of a more detailed schedule than the high-level one created during the initiating process.
  • Develop a work breakdown structure (WBS): Project managers should use the master project schedule to begin development of a WBS. The WBS should be broken down to the lowest possible level and should align with the reporting period.
  • Develop a risk-management plan: Document and define the processes for capturing and tracking project risks.
  • Develop an issue-management plan: Document and define the processes for capturing and tracking project issues.
  • Update and enhance the budget spreadsheet to reflect information obtained during the planning process: Budget requirements and tracking often vary from company to company. Project managers must follow the financial processes of the company.
  • Update the governance model: Governance models are required for project control and leadership visibility. All projects require some form of governance. The model should be agreed upon and signed off on during this phase.
  • Update the escalation model: In some cases, escalation is part of the governance model, but often it is not. Either way, make sure it is documented and approved during the planning process.
  • Update the quality-management plan: The planning process is a good time to refine your quality-management efforts. This includes determining what level of quality will be considered acceptable.
  • Update procurement documents, purchase orders, and any other purchasing-related documentation: The procurement process must be locked and executed before the project officially starts. In addition, all resources should be hired and in place long before official work on the project begins. Hiring resources early, before the scheduled work starts, will help to ensure that your project has the resources available when needed.
  • Develop training plans for key processes and tools implemented during this phase: It is important to develop training plans and materials for any new processes or tools created during this phase.

Like what you are reading, great, well guess what?

I created you a free eBook called “Project Management Playbook” that has all the stages of the project and continues down showing you the checklists in the various stages. Free download and ready for you to grab and start using today!


In summary, most project managers will value having a step-by-step process to follow for executing their projects. Have a full playbook like this will be a significant starting point and one that will help both seasoned and new project managers be successful. If you want this full Project Management eBook, then go here to download today.

What do you think?

If you liked this article, you are going to love this one about PMI Knowledge areas. Another article that I think is really important for project managers to review is my project communications article on some of the tips and best practices for communicating project information. Check it out here: Project Communication Plans Tips and Best Practices.

Bill Dow, PMP

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