Planning/Tools

The importance of careful PLANNING to the success of a change or transformation project can not be over-emphasized. In addition to providing an overview of the planning process this page will also introduce you to some of the TOOLS that can help with the implementation of a change project.

The first question to consider is ‘What needs to be planned?’. A comprehensive and detailed plan will not only help you to prepare for the project, it can also serve as your main control document throughout the project. By tracking progress against the plan you will be able to quickly identify deviations and take appropriate corrective action. Something that is often mentioned by project managers is the ‘train wreck‘ – this is a project that has gone so badly off course it has turned into a disaster. Making a good plan and tracking progress against it can help you to avoid creating a train wreck.

So the more areas you can include in your plan the better. The Value TRAI introduced under ‘Objectives’ can help you to identify areas to include in your plan (a more detailed description of the Value TRAI can be found on the RiskTuition.com website or in my text book ‘Value TRAI Based Risk Management‘).

The Value TRAI (photo courtesy of BP p.l.c.)
The Value TRAI (photo courtesy of BP p.l.c.)

Let us consider each of the T-R-A-I categories in turn:

TARGETS: In the section about objectives I explained about importance of setting clear measurable targets for a change project. Many of these targets can be divided into smaller ‘interim’ targets as the project progresses. For example if one of the targets is to spend x amount of money over the whole project this will probably be achieved in increments each month. You can put these increments into the plan and track progress against them on a monthly (or weekly) basis. Some targets may be more ‘chunky’ and be achieved completely at a fixed point in time – for example a reduction in employee numbers may expected to occur on a single date following an announcement and appropriate consultation process. In this case the plan should indicate when that point in time will be and what needs to be done before and after this event (see the R, A, I, categories below).

RESOURCES: You will find a link to a downloadable resource check-list on the RiskTuition.com site. Here the term ‘resources’ does not just refer to physical goods like raw materials but also includes items like financing, people, software, etc. You should have considered the resources needed for the total project when drawing up the strategy and scope documents. In the plan the scheduling of these resource requirements should now be considered to ensure that the correct amount of each resource is available precisely at the point in time when it will be needed by the project.

Trans Alaska Pipeline taken from Chris Dugglebys BIZCHANGERS site (photo courtesy of BP p.l.c.)
When planning project resources do not just consider physical resources like fuel – Consider other areas like finance, skills, and technology (Photo of the Trans Alaska Pipeline courtesy of BP p.l.c.)

ACTIVITIES: The activities part of your plan will be closely linked with the resource requirements. The activities generally provide the ‘pull’ for using the resources. For example, if you are considering an office relocation project the physical act of moving (an activity) will require you to have packing boxes (a resource) ready for people to pack before the move. It will also require you to pre-book the removal vehicles (resources) to arrive on the exact day of the move. Therefore many of the activities in your project may actually be considered as milestone events triggering resource requirements and acting themselves as precursors for other (‘dependant’) activities.

INTERACTIONS/INTERFACES: Some of these elements will be covered in more detail in the communications section of this website. In order to identify them you need to first determine who the stakeholders are for your project – a downloadable list of typical stakeholders is included on the RiskTuition.com site. Once you have identified your stakeholders you will need to plan how to interact with them (this is where the communications plan will be used). The communications plan should dovetail into the overarching plan for the project. Key milestones/events in your overarching plan will be supported by carefully managed communications activities. These communications activities are designed to manage stakeholder interactions/interfaces.

To manage interactions first identify key stakeholders - including your industrial neighbours (photo courtesy of Formosa Group)
To manage interactions first identify key stakeholders – including your industrial neighbours (photo courtesy of Formosa Group)

The Value TRAI approach will help you to identify what needs to be included in your plan. If you present your plan as a two dimensional matrix the individual TRAI items can be listed along the horizontal axis at the top of the matrix. Time can then be charted along the vertical axis (the allocation of the axes is arbitrary – so if you wish time can be charted horizontally). For larger projects additional subdivisions may be needed. For example the ‘work streams’ introduced in the section on governance may each have their own individual sub plans (each with its own specific TRAI items). More complex change projects may also be divided based on stages in the project’s ‘life-cycle’ (e.g. Planning, Design, Engineering, Implementation, Commissioning, Operations). The time line axis of the project can be subdivided to accommodate these stages – some of which may overlap with one another.

The medium you use for your change project plan will be dependant upon the project complexity, cost considerations and the technical competence of your planner(s). At its simplest the plan can be captured on a spreadsheet – in fact I have seen project plans which were extremely complex spreadsheets with multiple interconnected pages. Alternatively you may want to consider a dedicated project planning/management software – any engineers reading this will certainly be familiar with packages like Microsoft Project.  For projects involving the reorganisation of large groups of people organisation chart mapping software packages like OrgPublisher might be worth considering. These will not only allow you to track the changes to individual roles but will also allow you to monitor people characteristics of the changing organisation (e.g. the relative representation from minority or disadvantaged groups, or key skills that the organisation wishes to retain).

In addition to the tools mentioned above the project may need to plan for other tools to support the change process. For example in people changes competency maps may be required (to match the competencies of the people retained with those required in the new organisations).  When people or processes are changing ‘transition check-lists‘ can be useful to ensure that the potential risks arising out of the transition have been considered (these are sometimes referred to as ‘hand-over lists‘). I will explain more about change project risk management in another section of this site. Some other change management tools are also described in more detail in my risk management text book.

In summary the change project planning process should:

  • Have a time axis and an axis for the major subdivisions or workstreams for the project
  • Consider key Targets, Resources, Activities and Interactions required during all stages of the project life cycle
  • Indicate interdependencies (e.g activities which require another activity to be completed or a resource to be in place before they can start)
  • Ensure relevant tools/checklists are prepared in advance of when they will be required
  • Use a planning infrastructure/software that is relevant to the complexity of the project
  • Be a key control document to allow corrective action to be taken quickly where variations from the expected plan arise.

Once the general project plans are in place you should start to prepare the more detailed plans which will be required for change project communications. You can find out more about this by following the link here.

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