by Bill Dann

Sound implementation planning

If you have read the previous articles in our series on change, you know that at this point in your change management initiative, you have gathered data, defined the new innovative process, and discussed some “low hanging fruit,” i.e., low cost, easy improvements. The next step then: plan the full-blown implementation of the newly designed process.

But how you put that plan together and how you use it to implement your new process can make or break your efforts. Remember, we are trying to beat the odds here, i.e. overcome the 2 in 3 chance of failing at making meaningful improvement. At this point, you have come too far to not to finish strong. Here’s how make implementing change in your organization stick by creating and using an implementation plan.

Why an implementation plan is essential

  • Complete quick improvements: In the last issue, we discussed the importance of gaining momentum quickly. That is, demonstrating positive changes, however small, as soon as possible to silence skeptics and gain faith and trust of management in the implementation team. Including those early changes in the implementation plan is crucial to assure their execution.
  • Manage the old while creating the new: The challenge for the implementation team will be finding time to work on the new system while having to continue producing results using the existing process. The implementation plan clearly lays out the work required to bring the new process into existence and can serve as the reality check on time required to get that work done. Beyond being a clear roadmap for the work, the plan can also become the tool that motivates the team to carve out time for project tasks.
  • Inspire the confidence of management: A sound implementation plan will give management confidence in the project team and thus bring the support needed for full implementation. The plan can be used to report to management regularly on progress so as to maintain that confidence.
  • Build the team:One definition of a team is a group of individuals committed to a common purpose. In change management, achieving a successfully implemented process innovation is that purpose. Breaking that achievement down into the discrete tasks to be done, and then watching those tasks be completed as you manage the plan builds a strong team. The team demonstrates a vitality that is infectious and, again, it silences skeptics.

Elements of a sound implementation plan

Project Management Template

A good implementation plan includes a visual tool showing the tasks to be completed. Critical are the co-dependencies between tasks, i.e., a task that must be completed before a different task can begin, particularly when those dependent tasks are in different functional areas, like finance and marketing or IT and customer service. A change project is akin to building a house; i.e., you want to be sure the electrician’s work is completed before the drywall contractor covers up the studs. (To view a larger version of the Dynamic Plan chart shown at right that we create with our change clients, click here.)

Ultimately, an implementation plan is best designed as a type of PERT chart (def: A chart that displays the sequence of tasks that form the project. To see a larger sample of the chart at right, click here.) Task duration is included in order to determine the critical path or series of tasks requiring the longest amount of time to complete. In particular, the elements of a sound implementation plan include:

  • The vision of success.
  • A track in the plan for each major area of work.
  • Tasks detailed at a level that assures nothing is dropped and that can show with certainty if the project is on schedule.
  • Responsibility for each task assigned to one of the team members for completion.
  • A due date for each task.

The team

The implementation team should be 5-9 persons and consist of individuals willing to take responsibility for individual tasks and the results outlined in the plan. Included as well are staff with the expertise needed to define the tasks to achieve the vision of the new process design. Finally, an in-house IT expert or IT consultant is often advisable, because information technology is often one of the enablers of innovation in the design.

Managing the plan

In our experience, the team needs to meet weekly for a very tightly run accountability session that should take no more than half an hour. Tasks due to have been started or completed are reviewed and progress noted. Instances in which the tasks are behind schedule should be problem solved. In addition, there may be needs for working sessions of the team or a sub-set of the team to develop policy, procedures, recommendations to management for resources or policy change, etc.

Teams that meet less often tend to fall behind and recognize it too late to get back on schedule. Failing to maintain the schedule erodes the faith of management and co-workers in success of the project and represents a major risk factor.

What you can do

So we have discussed briefly here the “why” of an implementation plan, its elements, the team responsible and the working of the plan. Want more specific information on how you can design a sound implementation plan for your change project? We would be happy to help. Simply e-mail us.

The rest of the story

To read the rest of the articles in this series on change click on any of the links below:

Change 1: Putting Customer Data to Work

Change 2: The Importance of Selling the Big “Why”

Change 3: Define the Scope, Understand the Potential and Assess the Readiness

Change 4: Let Those Who Do the Work, Design the Work

Change 5: Make Sure Everybody Wins

Change 6: Secure and Maintain Stakeholder Support

Change 7: Keys to Innovation

Change 8: The Importance of Data on Existing Performance

Change 9: Clarify Problems Before Innovating

Change 10: Finding Breakthrough Strategies

Change 11: Grabbing the Low Hanging Fruit

Change 13: The Human Side of Change

Change 14: Management Support of Change