• Basics
  • Exceptions
  • Planning in 7 steps
  • Product based planning
  • Documents
  • Relation with processes

You must know and understand:

  • Types and levels of plans
  • The role plans play in projects
  • Product based planning
  • The steps in drafting a plan
The purpose of the Plans theme is to facilitate communication and control by defining the means of delivering the products (the where and how, by whom, and estimating the when and how much).

Basic principles and core concepts

A document describing how, when and by whom a number of defined goals will be attained. Among these goals are products, timing, costs, quality and benefits.

A plan:

  • Is the backbone of the project's Management Information System;
  • Is always approved by the first higher level of management.

Plan levels

PRINCE2 advises three levels of plan, the differences being the scope that is covered, the level of detail and the timeframe.

  1. Project Plan
  2. Stage Plan
  3. Team Plan (optional).

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy...



Tolerances are the permissible deviation above and below a plan's target for time and cost without escalating the deviation to the next level of management. There may also be tolerance levels for quality, scope, benefit and risk.

When the forecast indicates that the stage (or the project as a whole) will exceed the agreed tolerance an exception occurs, and this should be immediately be escalated to the next higher management level. When a stage exceptions occurs the Project Manager uses the Exception Report for escalation.

Tolerance for a plan is set by the authority that apporves the plan.

Tolerance is usually expressed as a percentage. E.g. a +/- 5% tolerance on time means that the Project Manager can continue the stage when the forecast for time is that it will not exceed the agreed time with more than 5%, or when no underrun greater than 5% is expected.

Work will not always proceed as planned. When it becomes clear that set tolerances for a plan will be exceeded an exception occurs. This is always a trigger for an escalation to the next higher level of management: when a stage goes in exception the Project Manager escalates to the Project Board., when the project goes in exception the Project Board escalates to corporate or program management.

Exception Plan

This is a plan that replaces the plan whose execution has gone into exception. Exception Plans can be produced for a Stage Plan or the Project Plan.

The Exception Plan starts at the moment the current plan has gone into exception and continues to the end of the plan that is replaced by the Exception Plan: for a Stage Plan to the end of the current stage, for the Project Plan to the end of the project..

Preparing a plan is by no means black magic: there are seven well defined steps to be taken:
  1. Design the plan:
    Before the actual planning starts decisions have to be taken on the way the plan should be structured and how it should look. Also the estimation methods to be used have to be determined.
  2. Define and analyse the products:
    Project Product Description, PBS, PD's and PFD.
  3. Identify activities and dependencies:
    For all products the activities necessary for delivering the product must be determined, and also the connections between products. There is an internal dependency when work on one product can only start after a previous product has been finished. An external dependency exists when a product has to be delivered outside the project (e.g. by another project).


  1. Prepare estimates:
    There are numerous ways to estimate the amount of effort (in time, resources, materials) needed for a product, and PRINCE2 does not favour one over the other. A key rule however is that estimates should be prepared in cooperation with the people who are going to do the actual work.
  2. Prepare the schedule:
    Establish the proper sequence of activities and plot them in time. Here also, PRINCE2 does not favour one method over another. However, schedules should be realistic and contain enough float (slack). In this activity we need also to investigate the availability of resources and allocate these to activities. When preparing the schedule the milestones and stages should be established to provide the Project Board with moments for formal control. When planning these, the Project Manager must strike the right balance between too many milestones (cumbersome, expensive) and too little (loss of control by the Project Board). Last: one should not forget that all kinds of mangement activities by the Project Manager need time!
  3. Analyse the risks:
    In each planning step we are confronted by uncertainties: will resources really be available? how thorough is our breakdown? how reliable are our estimates? All these areas of uncertainty may give rise to risks. When these are recognized the Project Manager should either change the plan to eliminate them, or enter the risks in the Risk Register.
  4. Document the plan:
    A plan is more than a Gantt-chart and a table of resources and costs. It is a document in which a reader should find the logic and arguments for the choices made.

Product based planning

One of PRINCE2's principles is "focus on products". When preparing a plan this principle is actively practiced. All plans start with considering what is to be delivered, what first, how to later!
Product Based Planning is only one of the activities in preparing a plan. It has four steps:

  1. Prepare a Project Product Description
    (only when making a Project Plan);
  2. Draft the Product Breakdown Structure (PBS);
  3. Write the Product Descriptions;
  4. Draft the Product Flow Diagram.

Under the "Documents" tab you can find examples of a PBS and a PFD.

PBS and PFD examples:

Documents relevant for Plans:

With Starting up a Project (SU)

  • In SU the initiation Stage Plan is drafted+
  • There is no plan for SU..

With Directing a Project (DP).

  • All plans are to be approved in DP.

With Initiating a Project (IP)

  • In IP the Project Plan is drafted..

With Controlling a Stage (CS)

  • In CS the Project Manager will work according to the Stage Plan;
  • Each stage is controlled using the appropriate Stage Plan.
With Managing Product Delivery(MP)
  • The Stage Plan sets out which products are to be produced in a stage;
  • Each team can have it's own Team Plan for a stage.
With Managing a Stage Boundary (SB)
  • The next Stage Plan is drafted in SB;
  • When the Project Board instructs so, an Exception Plan is drafted in SB.
With Closing a Project (CP)
  • In CP the Project Plan is updated with the actuals for the project.

Met Starting up a Project (SU)

  • In SU worden de Kwaliteitsverwachting van de klant en de Acceptatiecriteria vastgelegd.
  • De kwaliteitseisen kunnen ook van invloed zijn op de keuze van suppliers.

With Directing a Project (DP)

  • In alle beslissingen van de Project Board is Kwaliteit één van de overwegingen (naast benefits, scope, tijd, kosten en risico).

Met Initiating a Project (IP)

  • In IP worden de Product Descriptions opgesteld.
  • Het Quality Register wordt geopend.
  • De Quality Management Strategy wordt opgesteld.
  • De Project Product Description, met daarin de Kwaliteitsverwachting van de klant en de Acceptatiecriteria wordt afgerond.

Met Controlling a Stage (CS)

  • In Workpackages worden de Product Descriptions (met daarin de Kwaliteitscriteria) opgenomen.
  • Wanneer het nodig is worden aanvullende afspraken over kwaliteitswerk gemaakt.
Met Managing Product Delivery(MP)
  • In Workpackages worden de Product Descriptions (met daarin de Kwaliteitscriteria) opgenomen.
  • In de activiteit "Work Package uitvoeren" worden de testen uitgevoerd die voor de producten zijn beschreven.
  • Het testwerk wordt bijgehouden in dhet Quality Register.
With Managing a Stage Boundary (SB)
  • Bij de planning van een nieuwe fase wordt het Quality Register bijgewerkt met de testen en reviews die voor die fase zijn gepland.
  • Voor nieuwe producten worden de Product Descriptions opgesteld. Voor al eerder gedefinieerde producten kan het nodig zijn de Product Descriptions bij te werken.
  • In de activiteit "Fase afsluiting rapporteren" wordt vastgesteld welke producten in deze fase zijn afgerond. Hiervoor wordt een Product Status Account opgesteld
Met Closing a Project (CP)
  • Bij het afsluiten van een project moet voor alle producten duidelijk zijn dat er acceptatie heeft plaatsgevonden. Hiervoor wordt een Product Status Account opgesteld.