Dealing with change: Project planning
Dealing with change: Why a detailed project plan helps you survive and succeed
Recently a friend of mine came me to discuss a change she needed to push through in her business. She described it as hard to approach this challenge as she could see a lot of turbulence ahead, and knew she was in for an emotional rollercoaster ride once the changes began to be implemented. I advised her to take time out now to prepare a project plan. "The reason you have a project plan is so that you don't have to make quick decisions when you are under a lot of other pressures. Being able to follow the plan gives stability."
A good project plan has goals broken down into sub-goals, individual steps and actions, with a timeline linking each of these, along with who is responsible for which action.
Having this structure coolly thought out in advance makes it easier to keep a sense of direction and momentum, instead of reacting when you are in a state of emotional turmoil. A good project plan will also have thought through the risks, and have “what if” scenarios. For example “I don’t know how many of my employees will remain with the company through this change” – then have a plan ready for communication and retention, plus one for hiring and training ready if needed.
This allows you to implement good decisions when you are in the middle of changing circumstances, and strong emotions. All you need to do is to follow a plan that was outlined with a clear head, trusting your plan to carry you through this difficult stage.
To make a successful project plan:
Make it detailed: Break down key goals into timed actions with clear responsibilities.
Hold people responsible for their actions – don’t let people “Over-promise and under- deliver” – get realistic commitments that are fully owned. Avoid doing it yourself when people mess up (even if it is quicker, you are piling up future problems when people learn you’ll accept poor work or missed deadlines).
Take the time to ask “Which scenarios would negatively impact our plan?” Set up action plans to deal with each of these.
Communicate to impacted people. Explain the “what and why” is being done. Be mindful that people will deal with information differently based on where they are in the change process. For example, when news is a shock (for example if there is a fear of change or concerns about their job), people will not be able to take in and retain the detailed information. Provide handouts with the detail that can be taken away, and opportunities for later meetings to answer questions.