The Big Change Report identified Planning as one of the ‘Big Five’ for successful change initiatives.

Therefore, I have put together five less common, but vital considerations you must consider during the planning stages of a Big Change programme:

1. Focus on Purpose and Value:

From the name you give to the initiative, to the tone and content of all communications, it pays to focus on Purpose and Value. What’s the main reason for this change and what value will it deliver? Not just to the business in terms of general cost efficiencies, but to each area/role/individual. The more you can categorise your End Users and identify Their Individual Agendas, the more relevant and impactful you can make the Value and Purpose of your change. The Big Change Report highlights Clarity of Purpose as the number one factor for successful change, so ensuring this is front and centre from pre-planning to progress updates is crucial. Whenever possible plan ways of capturing and sharing value stories and evidence along the way rather than waiting till the end to report on success. What will you be able to share that is relevant to each group of End Users and Stakeholders at each milestone? Done well and early this can quickly turn your change from a hard push to an easy pull.

2. Visualisation:

Standing out above everything we’ve looked at is the highly visual language people use to describe change – good and bad. This resonates with us at Xceed Group as we have long relied on a Proceed “Plan on a Page” to show complex change programmes and implementation events on a single page. This is regularly printed in A0 and acts as a key point of reference for all stakeholders. There are lots of tools available for creating a plan a page, but the key is to simplify complexity with your visualisation – and then be able to update it in near-real-time as the change progresses. Showing what’s complete, in-flight and left to do. If you can visualise the Value (as above. as you go along then you’re set for success.

3. User Adoption and Education

(Instead of User Acceptance Testing and Training) Starting both much earlier in the process than is typically the case is shown to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO. and definitely improves perception of the change initiative. Who is this change for and what would they really like to get out of it? If they’re not involved from the Planning stage then there’s a high likelihood of them rejecting the end product, or engaging half-heartedly at best – negatively impacting take-up of the delivered solution and reducing the value the business gets from the project. Insisting on End User involvement from the outset and focusing discussion on ‘adoption’ and ‘education’ instead of Testing and Training can dramatically improve results. A tip for the bold – identify vocal and influential sceptics from the End User community and get them involved from the Planning stages. If you can convert one or two of these personalities their buy-in and support is worth more than a hundred ‘happy noise’ emails from the project team or Exec Sponsor.

4. Pre-Agree Risk and Issue Responses

Risks and Issues are inevitable. It’s how you respond to them that counts. Include time in your plan to discuss and agree an objective model for responding to risks and issues with your key stakeholders. You can simply categorise Risks and Issues or use a Risk Matrix but the most important element is involving the stakeholders before they arise – preparing them for the most likely Risks and Issues and agreeing how they’ll be handled. A RACI for Risk can also help you to avoid the costly deep-dives and ‘all hands’ meetings that can needlessly de-rail and demotivate the team. Done well this turns potential mountains into molehills.

5. Pre-Mortem Planning

We’ve left the best till last. One of our favourite lessons from the world of Behavioural Science comes from noted psychologist Gary Klein and is supported by the Nobel Prize winning founder of Behavioural Economics Daniel Kahneman. Pre-mortem planning is proven to access far more of the knowledge and experience available to you than any group discussion, meeting or brain-storm. The “Prospective Hindsight” that you get with pre-mortem planning is shown to increase the ability to identify the correct reasons for future outcomes by 30 percent. Once the project team (including End Users!. has come up with the first Plan, ask them to imagine themselves in 6/12/18 months’ time (whenever the end of the change is planned for.. Task each with privately writing a ‘case study’ of the project – detailing as many reasons for why it failed as possible. Encouraging them to add reasons/causes that they’d never suggest in public. Collate the ‘case studies’ and use the list of ‘reasons’ for failure – working through them one at a time and planning responses or how to avoid them. This isn’t intended to undermine your plan but to strengthen it. Our own approach includes the positive version as well. Exactly the same but this time detailing the reasons why it was the most successful project they’ve ever been involved in – combining the two always highlights valuable improvements to the plan – and frequently some funny ones.