When you say, you want a project plan, what do you really mean? On occasions, I am told that It is the gantt charts I should look at! In fact that happens quite often but as part of PM profession, I feel it requires more careful reference as a project plan is more comprehensive and covers many more critical components than just key milestones and work packages.
According to PMI, “a project plan is a formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and project control. It documents planning assumptions and decisions, facilitate communication among stakeholders, and document approved scope, cost, and schedule baselines.
While PRINCE-2 maintains, “a statement of how and when a project’s objectives are to be achieved, by showing the major products, milestones, activities and resources required on the project.”
So its really strange that PMs keep referring project schedule as project plan.A project plan is a comprehensive document that in addition to project Schedule should also contain, Project objectives for which the project got initiated, the scope of the project in details including what it doesn’t include, project deliverables that project would deliver, project plan would also have assumptions or constraints within which it would operate, it may also have some external dependencies, plan would also contain the budget allocated to complete project activities, it would contain risks or open issues that project faces, it would also describe how it would ensure quality of deliverables, what all resources including human resources would be used, how changes would be handled and how they would be evaluated in the interest of the project objectives, it would mention the project roles and reporting structure of people involved in the project and how external vendors would be contracted/used for project purchases.
Interestingly, PMI or PRINCE-2 does not define the size of the project plan document, so it can be short or detailed depending on the comfort of the stakeholders. Also I agree that standardization is very important in our practice to avoid confusion and guide new PMs but that’s not all. An approved project glossary is better to have at the beginning of the project.