When planning a project there are lots of options for organizing the tasks. When I think about a project plan I automatically think of the traditional gantt chart with the tasks, sub-tasks, resources, and timeline all incorporated within. In a lot of ways I feel like I need to create this level of detail to make sure I really understand the project, the contingencies, and who will need to work on which pieces when. Without it, I feel like I can’t identify the hurdles as easily either, which can lead to ugly surprises down the road.
But I don’t think that madness should apply to anyone else – not the client, the team, or the stakeholders. While I might show it to them just to let them know we did our homework, I would never ask anyone to try to track the project using a document big enough to wallpaper a room. For everyone else I tend to make a simple milestones list or calendar to show when key points in the project will fall. These tools are much easier to read and can provide all the information the stakeholders need to move forward.
With that said, I know plenty of project managers who never make the detailed project plans and some of them are successful that way. Except for really small projects, I don’t really understand how that works but hey – if it works for them it works for them!