Plan! Plan! Plan!

Claire Vane
June 4, 2024

We were starting on another large project to do with restructuring and organisational redesign, and I started to notice the usual phase of early stage of despair and overwhelm that afflicts us all when we have an enormous project to design and implement; the pressure is on. It’s taken me many years to learn emotionally what I knew intellectually when I first started my career, having attended a five-day project planning / problem-solving course. In those days (some forty years ago), all the graduate trainees in big multi-nationals were sent on week-long courses focused on each of the following: competency-based interviewing, negotiating skills, problem-solving, project management, and the like.

These days, we are often expected to assimilate, or mind-read, and hope that osmosis works in the development of these sorts of skills. They require certain techniques and practice and one needs to be fully conversant with the subject to be able to apply those skills. I look back on those training courses with fondness. They certainly gave me a grounding that I use to this day. In addition to this, I had two excellent bosses in my first two jobs, largely focused on industrial relations and prevention, (rather than cure) to keep employee relations in good shape in a multi-unionised environment. Not all of my memories are good. I can remember the day one AUEW shop steward told me that I should be “Away hame darning a wee semmit” (away home darning a wee vest). Matters of equal treatment and diversity are now heading in the right direction generally and the in-depth grounding we had was extremely useful.

If I am to distil the project planning course I went on all those years ago, it would be that “It’s all in the planning” and “Plan, plan, plan” has to be the name of the game at the start of an assignment. This applies whether one is an internal resource, or an external resource such as we are. If we are embarking on a project, we give the planning phase a huge amount of emphasis, planning every single stage of the proceedings with deadlines and a clear definition of who needs to be available for what length of time, for which expertise and by which milestone deadline. This enables us to weave in our resources with those of the client, so that we operate as a partnership. So, my first great memory is “It’s all in the planning”.

The second thing that I’ve never forgotten and, although I found the analogy a little silly, the philosophy certainly still applies, and that is; “When you are going to eat an elephant, you have to cut it into small pieces”.

I find that these two memories drive my reduction of the feeling of overwhelm. It’s really easy to procrastinate on the planning phase, and then, when the overwhelm kicks in, it’s easy to realise that the time spent planning is well spent if done in sufficient detail. If it is, then the whole project proceeds smoothly. So, if you need help on complex problems, it is worth considering the planning phase in greater detail and to remember that the elephant needs cutting into pieces.

We can help with these multi-layer projects, providing not only the expertise to complete restructures, redesigns and streamlining exercises, but also providing you with your own project manager for the duration of the assignment, as we have project management skills in house as well.

If you’d like us to help with removing the headaches of complex projects, we are only at the end of the phone or screen and have the expertise, capacity and capability you may need.

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