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📝 The Planning Challenge in Social Care

A big challenge facing decision-makers in the care sector is finding enough time and space for planning lasting and beneficial changes. A combination of the previous challenges such as Covid and recruitment, plus the complexities of management, has often led to many leaders feeling stuck in a firefighting mode! Despite this, managers know quality planning is an essential ingredient for creating lasting, life-improving change.

How can we plan effectively and get it right from step one? What tools can we use to create a smooth and holistic transition while meeting existing targets and standards? How can we get the best from everyone in the process?

What makes planning a challenge? What are my options?

There are many reasons planning is a challenge. Firstly, it can feel overwhelming to get into. There may be a lack of time, a sense of complexity alongside the constraints for navigating the change and getting everyone involved, and then potentially, a more deep-seated fear that even more issues will come up in the change process. As such, the change-making process can feel a lot like doing lunges for decision-makers; a painful stretch!

But what if we told you this feeling is natural? That this meshwork of complex stuff gets much easier to deal with using simple, effective tools that let you chunk up each of these pieces and then fit them together into an exciting, flexible, and realistic plan? It's all possible, using the wonderful approaches and tools within Project and Change management.

What is Project and Change Management and how can they help?

Planning a strategy for an organisational rollout means a departure from business as usual, which can be disconcerting and demoralising if it's not done with care, consideration, and enthusiasm. Making changes requires reviewing how things currently are (point A) and what it takes to get them to a better place (point B). For this reason, project management and change management go hand in hand for planning.

What is project management?

The PMI (Project Management Institute) gives a nice, simple definition: “the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people.”. Normally this happens according to an agreed timescale and set of measurable acceptance criteria to track against the project’s progress. Project management methodologies are ten-a-penny, so here we look generally at project management as an overall discipline and offer some tools from multiple methodologies.

What are the qualities of a project? Prince2 and Prince2 Agile are careful to distinguish a project with Business As Usual, which is important for knowing what project management is about.

Here are the key differences:

Project Characteristics

Business as Usual Characteristics

  • Temporary

  • Cross-functional team is created

  • Difficult; new tasks & workstreams

  • A degree of uncertainty

  • Ongoing

  • Stable teams

  • Routine

  • More certainty

So, project management approaches are like vehicles loaded with great yet simple tools for taking organisations to new destinations. They help to structure, plan and manage the change in a holistic, effective way, but are not prescriptive of exactly how that’ll be done.

What is change management?

In a nutshell, change management looks more at people, and involves all aspects of securing stakeholder adoption; getting feedback, emotional commitment, finding and articulating whys, organising infrastructure and communication channels, and more. A well-managed change is one where everyone understands and connects with the why, their motivation, and the plan of action. How does this compliment project management?

Change management particularly focuses on the people and culture, which is so important for executing it well. Project and change management are heavily connected, because how well the change is managed directly effects the project process and thus its outcomes:

Good change management outcomes

Poor change management outcomes

  • Higher staff morale

  • Benefits realisation and lower risks

  • Greater buy-in and consistency of change adoption across the board

  • Takes less time

  • Lowered costs

  • Poor staff morale

  • Missed opportunities and more risk

  • Less buy-in and lower consistency in the change adoption

  • Takes more time

  • Faces higher costs

If you don’t manage the link between the change and your people, it'll be hard to expect the change itself to go well! With the uses of the change and project management approaches clarified, let's add some tools from their toolkits to add some great but simple methods for creating a winning change. Do you use any of these? Do you see any that would be good for your toolkit?

10 Tools for Planning a Change

You can apply these tools physically or digitally, using paper or software. These tools can be used across snippets of invaluable planning time to build up an increasingly clear strategy.

  • Stakeholders map/network; use this tool to map out all the relevant stakeholders in the project and their relationships with each other. A great tool is here by Miro. You can also use mapping collaboratively to paint the full picture of the stakeholders.

  • Commitment matrix; also goes by ‘stakeholder map’, this tool lets you plot stakeholders and how they’ll be prioritised based on your findings. Here’s an example.

  • Systems thinking tools; systems thinking allows you to simply visualise reoccurring patterns and causal relationships, allowing planners to solve problems at root cause.

  • Process Mapping; simple tools like MS Visio or Lucidchart let you map out existing and new processes to optimise them (e.g remove duplications) and harmonise them.

  • Kanban Walks; a tool used a lot in agile and invaluable to leadership, it involves getting ‘on the ground’ and taking direct part in a process and team directly to experience it and gather feedback in an engaging and direct way.

  • Creating Open Contact points; Before and after initiating a change, creating and keeping open channels for interactively discussing ideas and concerns, as well as actioning them, creates a better picture of the current reality in the organisation.

  • SWOT Analysis; Good ol’ SWOT is a simple and effective tool for exploring the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of both the BAU and alternative options.

  • Engagement and Brainstorming; having dedicated brainstorming sessions with a range of stakeholders at all levels can give huge insights and ideas for the change.

  • Work breakdown structures; as the name implies, they help you to get clear on how the big-picture goals will be reached by breaking them down into smaller, more concrete chunks.

  • Critical Path Analysis; A great tool for finding out how best to sequence and orchestrate the project’s workstreams so that they unfold smoothly and harmoniously.

💡 Final Thoughts

The planning challenge is being caused by a range of pressures in social care alongside the complexities of management and coordinating holistic changes. Because of these, the scope of change, and the time needed to plan it properly can feel overwhelming.

There is a better way! By using project management and change management approaches to planning. These tools simplify planning while making it more comprehensive and encompassing. Using these approaches gives proven benefit to change implementations.

Creating simple, effective and holistic plans can be done by using a range of simple thinking tools. These tools can be applied on paper or via dedicated software.

We hope this article can help you to solve the planning challenge. But if you’d prefer to get instant expert advice totally tailored to your current situation, we’d love to chat! Click here to book in a friendly, no-obligation chat with us.


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