Project planning workshop

Guidelines for Project Managers

It is rare that a project manager will be able to define all the details of a project without input from other people involved in the project, subject matter experts, stakeholders etc. A project planning workshop will provide a space for a group discussion or brainstorm to start to define the detail of how the project will be implemented and delivered. Some details will already have been approved in the mandate or business case; however others still need to be established. The project planning guide explains the type of information that you will need to gather.

Workshop name  Planning workshop 
Recommended Participants (roles)


  • Project Manager, Chair and Facilitator
  • Project Team members


  • Any subject matter experts within the scope of the project
  • IT representative (if relevant)
  • Additional project team members
Workshop timing 

Workshop 1

To be held early in the planning and defining stage of the project, to create a high level implementation plan to go with the business case for approval.

Workshop 2 (optional)

To be held later in the planning and defining stage once the business case (.docx) has been approved and further definition is needed, eg for: system specification, procurement, process review, detailed project plan.

Objectives of the workshop

Workshop 1

Following approval of the business case, during this workshop the attendees will produce a high level implementation plan with a timeline, including a few key milestones outlining the changes.

Workshop 2 (if needed)

During the workshop the attendees will answer the following questions:

  • how will we do this and what is the best way of implementing these changes?
  • when (exactly) will we do this?
  • who will do it, step-by-step?
  • the answers will form a detailed project schedule or plan, including timeline and major key milestones
Critical success factors

Make sure:

  • to identify and request attendance from key participants for the workshop
  • to distribute any papers that must be read before the workshop in good time
  • all attendees fully understand the aims of the project, and how it will be achieved
  • all attendees fully participate in discussions and decisions during the workshop
  • to have clear ownership of actions, including deadlines, in the action log
  • to summarise (and agree on) all decisions and actions before closure of the workshop
Key decisions and outputs expected by the end of the workshop


  • How are we going to implement this project - identify the key milestones.
  • When are we implementing the changes - timeliness; big bang or staged approach.
  • Who will be included in the implementation work - project team, business change team, other professional service areas or departments.
  • Enablers and dependencies to the project.
  • Any known risks or issues associated with the project.


  • Draft of detailed project schedule or plan.
  • Timeline.
  • Action log.
Workshop preparation

Project Manager to:

  • set clear objectives for the workshop and who the mandatory attendees are
  • agree on the products that will be used, and, if any, documents / papers need to be circulated and read before the workshop
  • decide on post workshop coordination, support and follow up
Post-workshop support
  • Distribute the action log, with owners and deadlines.
  • Follow-up meeting with Project Team to check on progress with the plan.

Materials to assist in the workshop delivery

Document  Description 
Draft schedule / project plan  Draft version to be used during the workshop.
Timeline The project might already have a draft timeline, if so, use that. Otherwise use a simple timeline to scribble on during the workshop, which should be included / attached to the draft schedule/project plan, after the workshop.
Action log For the Project Officer/note taker to use during the workshop and then to be sent out to all attendees afterwards, a Smartsheet template is available.
  • Technical equipment / flipcharts / pens and paper etc
  • See the meeting guide for information on booking rooms, catering and other resources


Common agenda items

Agenda items   Details  Duration  Delivery mechanism 
  • Welcome
  • Introductions from all participants
10 min 
  • Facilitator setting the scene, going through the agenda for the workshop and housekeeping
What/why (outcomes) 
  • Brief summary of the project
  • How workshop fits into lifecycle of project
  • Programme requirements that need to be met
30 min 
  • Project Manager giving a brief presentation of what the project is aiming to achieve
  • Facilitator (or PM) describing the requirements of the programme and the outcomes expected from the workshop
How/when/who (objectives) 
  • How are we implementing these changes - key milestones
  • When are we best implementing - timeliness and timeline
  • Who needs to be involved - key roles
1-3 hours
  • Depending on the scale of the project and size of workshop, consider using break-out sessions, discussing each objective, starting with the HOW
  • Summarise the objectives, creating the draft implementation plan with key milestones, timings and who will be involved/owning the actions on the plan
  • Include working lunch / break for lunch
After the workshop (follow-up) 
  • Summary of decisions and actions
  • What’s next - follow up after the workshop
30 min
  • Facilitator goes through the actions, making sure they are allocated to a person, with a deadline
  • Facilitator/PM describes the next steps
  • Thank you and closure
15 min 
  • Any final questions
  • PM closing the workshop

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Strategic Projects Office