5 Steps to Plan a Change

Like many of you, I am involved in new initiatives that my clients want to kick off and make progress with before the year end. I have set up hundreds of change programmes during my career, and I have a well thought through approach to getting things started in an organised way. Use my top tips for starting your own initiative or checking you haven’t missed anything.

  1. Benefits

Clarify what benefits your programme is going to deliver for the organisation. Benefits are the most important element, because if you do not know what positive difference you are going to make, then there is no reason to start the programme.

Once you know the benefits, you will have reasons to motivate people to get involved, and you will also have the ability to prioritise every idea for scope and requirements against the benefits. In this way, you have created a simple but effective cross check that what is being asked for is aligned to what your Sponsor and senior leadership team are hoping to achieve.

Recognise that there is a hierarchy of benefits, and use this table to ensure that your stakeholders have considered at least these top 5 benefits as well as those benefits that contribute to the top 5:

2. Outcome

Once you know the benefits, it is time to start talking about the outcomes that the programme will deliver. I find it helps to talk about what the organisation will be capable of doing as a result of the programme so that my stakeholders don’t just give me a shopping list of all the features and functionality that they want to include. It is too early to get into specifics, keep your stakeholders talking about the bigger picture, and make sure that you describe it back to them so that you really understand what it is that they want.

To make sure there is no duplication of effort, cross check these outcomes against other major initiatives taking place, ideally by building an effective working relationship with the Head of the Project or Portfolio Management Office – you two will not be strangers, as you will need to keep your programme aligned with everything else that is going on throughout the lifecycle of your change initiative.

          3.Strategy

It is tempting to build a plan as soon as you know the required outcomes, because it creates a feeling of control. Identifying the activities to make change happen before devising how you are going to manage the change will make your life more difficult.

Create a list of all the questions that you want answered, about the scope, outcomes, benefits, stakeholders and resources available to you before you plan anything. I have a checklist of questions that answer 8 important areas:

4. Plan

Make sure you have a long-term plan that shows how you are going to achieve the high level outcomes of your change, but only plan in detail for the next couple of months. Anything longer than this and you will be wasting time planning things that will inevitably change before you get to them.

Create a roadmap that demonstrates you have heard the required outcomes and scope of your programme, and that you have a clear journey to achieve them. Resist the urge to put in too much detail too early, or you will be reporting your progress against milestones that have changed as more detail has emerged. Over-planning also inhibits you from taking on-board the feedback from your stakeholders, so keep your plan flexible and create room to include good ideas as they emerge.


           5. Roles and responsibilities

To ensure as much participation as possible, offer those impacted by the change the opportunity to play a meaningful role in your programme. You might need some specialists but remember that the bulk of the work involved in creating and adopting new ways of working will be done by those whose work is affected.

It makes sense to include volunteers from the business areas impacted from the start, as they have valuable specialist knowledge about how things work in practice and what the real (not imagined) impact of the programme will be.

Offering opportunities to get involved ensures those that want to participate can share their energy and enthusiasm, they will be fully motivated and this will spread to others .