The Five Cs of Successful Planning
Submit Articles Back to Articles
Have you ever sat in a meeting listening to one of the
participants and thinking "Didn't we as a group decide to do the
opposite a couple of month's ago?"? Have you ever got to the
end of the year and realized that only half of the managers in your
organisation have adopted the new system, or that your team has fallen
well short of achieving their objectives? If so, then you may need to
have a closer look at your plan and how you have implemented it. Over
the years working for a number of organisations, I have experienced the
full gamut of factors that have hindered and have helped achieve
I have crystallized these learnings into a practical and easy
to remember model that will assist you achieve your and your team's
objectives. The model is applicable to activities as basic as
organizing your team's leave calendar to the more complex planning and
rollout of the annual training program. I have called this model The
Five Cs of Successful Planning. Each C
represents a phase in the planning cycle. Attending to each of these
phases will greatly improve your chances of success. Conversely,
neglecting a phase will increase significantly the risk of failure. The
model is represented below.
Figure 1 – The Five Cs of Successful
As you can see, the phases are sequential and cyclic. Actions
in a prior phase will need to be completed essentially before
progressing to the next. Haste resulting from impatience or unrealistic
deadlines is a recipe for failure. Completing all phases of the cycle
will take considerably longer than a less rigorous approach, however,
as the well-known saying goes, "The longest distance between two points
is the shortcut".
The planning cycle is iterative in order to allow for
modifications to the plan along the way. Rarely will the plan be
implemented exactly as originally thought. There may be factors outside
of your and your team's control or that could not reasonably have been
foreseen. Building in flexibility through planning for changes to the
plan will allow you to surmount hurdles placed in your path in a timely
and effective manner.
Let us now look at each phase of the
planning cycle and discern the most important activities and attitudes
In creating the plan, it is important to involve all
stakeholders. Stakeholders are people who have an interest in the
execution and outcome of the plan and may be impacted either positively
or negatively. Getting the buy-in of the major stakeholders is critical
to the plan's success, as a disenfranchised stakeholder may sabotage
the plan when you are well into execution. As a case in point, a number
of years ago I was called in as part of a plan to provide production
technical support. The existing engineer, not having been consulted
about the changes, felt disenfranchised, and so would embark on a "go
slow" whenever a request was made of him. So, it pays to involve
stakeholders up front.
The creation phase is itself iterative, as you draft each
version and submit it to the stakeholders for comment. Proposed changes
will then need to be incorporated until all stakeholders are reasonably
satisfied. Be sure to document the plan, making it clear who is
expected to do what and by when. Our engineer friend in the previous
story would have exhibited much less resistance if expectations were
clarified early on.
Also, list any assumptions made, as this will avoid costly
misunderstandings further down the track. When compiling the annual
training plan, for example, you may not know the cost for each planned
training intervention. For each item on my own training plans, I
document as part of the plan assumptions made about the number of
participants, cost per training day, likely vendors, and so on.
As you are working with the stakeholders in the Create
phase, identify who has approval authority for the plan and authority
to commit resources. For plans with a lot at stake, I suggest obtaining
formal sign-off from the required authorities as well as from the other
major stakeholders. If you have involved the stakeholders in the Create
phase, this will not be too difficult. However, I have been taught the
painful lesson more than once that a signature does not equate
necessarily to genuine commitment. Just recently, a senior manager I
approached lamented to me that the three-year training plan serves no
useful purpose, and then surprised me by signing it on the spot.
Where possible, get face-to-face with stakeholders to explain
the plan and the purpose behind it. Allowing for free two-way
communication facilitates genuine understanding and a real aligning of
attitudes. It is for this reason that I suggest never relying on emails
to gain commitment, especially when it is a major initiative or you do
not have a prior relationship of genuine trust with the stakeholders.
Send the plan out to stakeholders and everyone who is expected
to act in accordance with the plan. Once again, do not rely on email,
or any other form of asynchronous one-way communication, to inform
people of their roles and responsibilities in executing the plan.
Briefing sessions either in person, tele- or web-conference work best,
where there is opportunity to ask questions and get immediate feedback.
Where you expect staff in other areas of the organisation to
carry out parts of the plan conscientiously in order to ensure the
plan's success, one powerful technique is for staff to receive the
briefing from their managers. I have seen many programs falter because
it appeared driven by "them" in another department. This is why I
recommend a pre-course discussion between staff and their manager
before staff attend any training programme. Here, again, managers will
need to use two-way communication and be genuinely committed to the
Where genuine commitment is lacking, there is a real risk in
relying on senior and middle managers to filter information through the
various layers of management to the frontline worker. The message may
not get through at all or bear little resemblance to the original. In
some cases, I have seen my original information pack sent by email with
no attempt to engage staff. This is a familiar story also recounted by
a number of my colleagues. Hence the importance of the previous Commit
If the first three phases of the planning cycle were conducted
adequately, the execution phase will be off to a good start. Where one
or more of the previous phases were conducted poorly, trouble will show
up sooner or later. Deadlines may be missed, budgets overspent or poor
service or product quality delivered.
I recall a project that I was managing going off the rails a
number of weeks into plan execution. The Continuous Improvement Team
had completed the ten week training program and was well into building
a business case for an improvement initiative when the front-line
supervisor began bad-mouthing the team and putting obstacles in its
path. In response to increasing levels of frustration, most team
members had threatened to resign from the team. Even though the
supervisor was philosophically opposed to the plan, in a classic case
of groupthink, he had agreed publicly to the plan at the managers'
briefing session a number of weeks earlier. Which of the previous
phases do you think this incident exposed as being poorly done?
As the plan progresses, record activities carried out,
resources used and the products or services delivered. Doing so will
ensure an easier time in the final phase. Also, as the plan progresses,
record any issues affecting the execution of the plan as they arise.
This will also assist you carry out the next phase.
As you record activities, expenditure and products/services
delivered, compare progress with the plan at regular intervals. Doing
so will expose problems and potential problems as they arise.
Identifying them and resolving them early will save you much time,
energy and disappointment.
Progress checks can be made with your team and/or
representative stakeholders at major points along the way or at regular
intervals, such as weekly or monthly. This is also the time to identify
and resolve issues that have not yet come to the surface. Keep in mind
that problems ignored never go away. For the example cited above, my
response was to organize a meeting with the recalcitrant supervisor's
manager, my manager and myself to resolve the issue.
Stumbling blocks can be handled in either of two ways. The
first option is to create a Corrective Action Plan to get the project
back on track. You may need to call in extra resources, reassign tasks,
and so on. In our example, the Corrective Action Plan involved
scheduling team meetings so that they would encroach less on production
time. Alternatively, if the current plan is not salvageable in that you
are unable to deliver promised products or services, you will need to
revise and agree a new plan.
In either case, the planning cycle begins again. The
Corrective Action Plan will become a plan in itself that you will
create, gain commitment, communicate, carry out and check progress.
Where you have revised the existing plan, you will progress through the
next iteration of The Five Cs of the planning
When the goals of the plan have been achieved, or,
alternatively, you have abandoned the plan, conduct a final check. This
final check, or post-implementation review, has a somewhat different
emphasis. The objective here is to learn what worked well and what did
not work well so that you and your team can use these learnings in the
formulation and execution of your next plan.
Gather your team and the stakeholders together and get each to
listen openly and honestly to the others' feedback. Avoid laying blame.
The goal here is to build relationships and to look to the future.
Group learnings gained from the last post-implementation review I
conducted were significant. Review participants identified a range of
factors that will help us in the future assist trainees apply and
further develop their skills once they return to the workplace.
The Five Cs model is also an effective
tool to assist you conduct your review. For each of the five phases,
ask your team and stakeholders how efficiently and effectively each was
performed. Look at the hard measures, such as resources used and time
to complete, as well as the soft measures, such as degree of
co-operation and clarity of roles and responsibilities. Have someone
record the results. If your plan was a success, don't forget to reward
yourself and your team for a job well done. And next time you start to
plan or review how you went, don't forget The Five Cs
of Successful Planning.
Copyright © Leslie Allan
About the Author
Leslie Allan is Managing Director of
Business Performance Pty Ltd; a management consulting firm specializing
in people and process capability. He has been assisting organizations
for over 20 years, contributing in various roles as project manager,
consultant and trainer for organizations large and small. Mr. Allan is
a prolific writer on business issues, with many journal and web
articles to his credit. He is also the author of five books on employee
capability, training and change management. His company's web site is a
rich source of information, advice and tools in a variety of business
and management areas. Visit Mr. Allan's Business Performance
web site to download trial versions of products, free
templates and introductory chapters. Authors Google+
Follow us @Scopulus_News
Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2013-05-02 09:07:39 in Business Articles