Event Managementby Rus Slater
Changing the plan
Changes to the plan must be controlled, and, after changes have been agreed, the plan has to be re-done to incorporate those changes fully.
It seems excessive to be talking about documenting and analysing the simplest of requests or reschedules, but the fact remains that ‘change control’ is absolutely critical to any event, the planning of which takes more than a week or two.
You have studied your objective, brought the team together, planned the entire event and are confident that you can successfully bring it successfully to fruition regarding time, budget and quality.
Then someone asks if you can add a bit to something. Overall, it seems to be a tiny request in the scheme of things – a half-day job added to a 15-week plan, a few hundred pounds added to a £14,000 budget. Easy!
But is it really?
Will that little addition cause something further down the line to fail, go wrong or take longer?
The event being planned was a sponsored walk, both to raise funds and to commemorate an historic journey. All the planning was in hand and the overall plan had been scheduled and agreed. Then someone offered to sponsor a trophy for the fastest team. This seemed harmless, so the event sponsor immediately agreed to make this addition to the plan. But it introduced an elemnt of competition...
The route was 84 miles long, partially on roads and partially on footpaths. The Health and Safety considerations around walking in the dark on unlit country paths created equipment and safety cover complications; the local constabulary were less than impressed at the idea of dark roads being full of unlit walkers. The desire of some teams to rest where they chose overnight became difficult, as not all teams would reach the same point by sundown. A kind gesture and an apparently simple offer created a lot of difficulty and unhappiness, due simply to a lack of forethought.
When any change to the plan occurs, or is requested, you can look at the Gantt chart and see quite quickly what the most likely ‘downstream impacts’ of that change will be.
For example, in the sample Gantt chart, if Task 4 is going to be delayed by a week due to the absence of the decision maker, you can see that it will have no detrimental effect on the project schedule, as the dependent task (9) isn’t due to start until the following week. But...
If the decision maker for Task 2 were to delay, this would have a knock-on effect on Tasks 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9, and the delay in Task 4 would affect the start of Task 16.
If the decision maker for Task 10a were to delay making the decision, this would have a critical effect.
Cause and effect
You can also use some of the methods of cause and effect analysis in reverse to assess downstream impact where it is less obvious.
By following the timeline along from the point of change, you can ascertain the impact the change will have in the future. At the point of each activity or task, you need to assess any impact that may be caused by the changes you have made. You can reverse the use of the ‘families’ of the Ishikawa Cause and Effect tool here (Manpower, Machinery, Method, Management, Material.)
The impact on stakeholders
It is also wise to generate a list of all the stakeholders in the project outcome, as well as the active participants in the planning and management of the project, to assess whether there is any pertinent impact on these stakeholders.
For example, a list of stakeholders might include:
- Project team
- Deciding managers/Event sponsor
- Users of the end product
- Other staff (internal customers).
When considering the impact look at two areas:
- Implications – what will have to be done in this area/by these people to support this change?
- Consequences – what effect could this change have on this area/on these people?
When something doesn’t go according to plan...
An overriding principle to remember is ‘Bad news early!’ If something is going to go wrong, get out there and tell the people who can do something about it.
You should use the same process to assess the likelihood of downstream impact when you have to make changes to the timeline as a result of something going awry. A late delivery, unexpected difficulty or staff sickness may cause a deadline to be missed or a decision to slip. While you may have to accept the inevitability of this, you can mitigate the effect by looking at the downstream impact and changing the plan for the future to take the change into account.
When you need to change the plan, you must inform everyone of the effect this will have on them or there may still be unfortunate fallout.
It is best to use a standardised form to document changes as this ensures that all the angles are covered. We have included a sample form in MS Word format.