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  • Performance Drivers Pty Ltd

Get your project off to a good start

A checklist for project success

Managing any project requires optimising three interwoven factors; time, cost, and quality. At this fundamental level all projects are the same, the myriad of project details is where the differences lie.

Project goals range from simple to extremely complex. The purpose of a project might be to manage change, work on a process, develop a product, or undertake construction. Industry, workplace culture, and other differences have an impact too.

Many people start a project thinking they have considered everything and there won’t be any major issues to deal with. Then later, when things go awry it’s external factors that get the blame. It is rarely external factors causing the failures, delays and over-runs in a project. Doing a detailed analysis of many projects showed us that in 90% of cases, internal factors including people, processes and controls cause the issues.

Using a proven set of principles is how projects are successfully managed. Combining a thoughtful approach and thorough preparation sets up a project well for resolving the challenges, issues, problems, and risks which will threaten to derail it in every phase, from initiation through start up, planning, execution, and closure, to post-completion evaluation.

Getting started on your project

We all know the challenge of starting with a blank piece of paper. While projects rarely start without a problem to solve or an innovative idea they are always challenging to plan and organise.

There are so many decisions to be made, people to get on board, supplies and expertise to be brought in, processes and plans to be put in place.

It is unlikely that a checklist could be developed to provide you with a complete guide to simply tick off each action for any project you undertake. So, use this checklist to get thinking about what, why, how, when, where, and who will be involved in your project. Let it prompt you to think beyond what it suggests, spark research you need to do, and help in deciding what you need to do, and do not need to do, to manage your project well.

A project planning checklist

Reminder: think about what, why, how, when, where, and who for each item.

Processes and plans

Processes and plans formalise your thinking about managing the project and communicating how the project will be managed. Prepare simple to the point processes and plans which say how you will do things, focusing on quality of information not quantity.

  • Project management plan

  • Objectives and goals

  • Milestones

  • Work breakdown - project and project management outputs

  • Workflow diagram

  • Activity/task lists

  • Schedule

  • Deliverables

  • Scope management plan – including what is out of scope

  • Change control management plan

  • Quality management plan

  • Risk management plan

  • Compliance plan

  • Cost/budget management plan

  • Resource allocation plan

  • Communication plan and matrix

  • Human resources plan

  • Training plan

  • Procurement plan


Your involvement in the project might commence before or after any one of these have been thought about. You may need to create them, refine them, or be lucky enough to be handed exactly what you need.

  • A draft project charter briefly describing the scope of the project and provide an overview of what will be done

  • Strategic alignment of the project with the organisation’s direction

  • Business case for the project

  • Approval for the project

  • Executive support and do people know that it matters

  • Organisational history of projects or the subject of the project which it is relevant to consider

  • Funding and authority to spend

  • Governance arrangements – executive sponsor, steering committee, etc


  • Co-ordination and leadership requirements

  • Project roles, responsibilities, and organisational structure which make it clear who is responsible and accountable for each aspect of the project

  • Clarity of purpose, authority, delegations, and powers

  • Accountability, KPIs, and performance

  • Identify the stakeholders who need to be involved or informed

  • Identify and recruit the participants in the project

  • Secondments into a project role

  • Occasional participants

  • Champions

  • Hired for the project or backfilling in other positions

  • Administrative support

  • Advisers, subject matter experts, and suppliers

  • Training to do project work

  • Training to implement project outcomes

  • Suitable communication channels

  • Relationship management

Tools and resources

  • Project team IT requirements and access

  • Project management software

  • Workflow and collaboration software

  • Record keeping system

  • Reporting tools – dashboards and other data presentation

  • Accommodation and equipment


  • Project kick-off announcement to staff and a project team meeting

  • Protocol for team communication

  • Meetings, on-on-ones, and other team communication events

  • Task lists, assignment, briefing, tracking, monitoring, and reporting

  • Monitoring and review, status, and progress reporting - expectations, templates etc

  • Stakeholder communication

  • Keeping the organisation informed

  • Communication with suppliers

  • Customer communication

Risk management and compliance

  • Finding and minimising risks is an ongoing project management task which needs to be incorporated into the project’s work plans

  • Identify key risks, mitigation, and contingency plans – internal and external risks, lack of skills, supply delays, competitor activity etc

  • Identification of compliance requirements – legislative and regulatory, professional standards, Australian Standards, quality management, contractual, organisational policies and procedures, etc

  • Quality - set quality levels, how quality levels will be achieved, testing, auditing, etc

  • Need for inspections, approvals, or legal assistance

  • Controls to monitor and manage risks and compliance

  • Determine if project risks should be included in the organisation’s risk plans and monitoring

  • Protocols for risk and issue management and escalation

Checking your plan

  • Cross check the plan for completeness of entry into all relevant project planning documents, accounting for all necessary activities including management, issue resolution, quality, risk, supply, etc

  • Scrutinize dependencies for overlaps, adequacy of lags where needed, and inbound and outbound inter-project dependencies being accounted for.

  • Review timing and availability – holidays and staff availability are accounted for, and workloads do not exceed the capacity or availability of project managers or staff.

  • Check adequate lead times have been allowed on supply and approvals.

  • Examine the adequacy and coverage of the project controls

  • Assess if contingencies are adequate to protect the critical path.

Don’t forget, as you review the list, to think in terms of what, why, how, when, where, and who will be involved in each aspect of your project.



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