When things don’t go as planned, what do we do?  Well, if it’s too late we deal with the failure and mark it down as a lesson learned.  And hopefully we do learn from it and take that learning experience into the next project.  But what about the projects where we are lucky enough to recognize it – see the big messed up picture – in time to possibly re-plan and ‘right the ship?’  If the issues are minor, then you can fairly easily redirect the project and activities, reassign things where necessary, make slight adjustments to the plan and budget, and be moving forward very quickly in the right, new direction.

If the problems are more major, then replanning is going to involve more extensive processes to make sure that you and project team have everything covered.  If you find yourself in this situation, you may just have to halt the project and do some extensive re-planning before resuming operations on the project.

I have found that there are three key questions or actions to consider – basically as a checklist – to make sure you’ve covered all of your bases.  After all, it can almost be like a mini (or major) restart on the project.  You don’t want to miss some critical replanning process or task and have to deal with it later on.

Here’s my list….  Ask yourself…”Did I…”

Determine what is the cause for replanning?

It’s extremely important to fully understand and document the cause for the replanning effort.  When budget issues come up later on – and they will if much rework is involved – the more documentation on why you are off target (due to the replanning and project restart) and what the underlying causes were will help you keep the customer informed and hopefully save some customer satisfaction along the way.  And the problem may have ultimately been the customer.  Sometimes the customer may not remember that 18 months later when the project finishes $125,000 over budget.  Document it now to save your neck later.

Determine what areas (e.g., cost, schedule, quality) of the project are affected by the replanning? The negative and positive impacts?

Every customer – and probably every PMO director and executive leadership team – is going to want to see this type of information on a big project and definitely if the amounts and affects are significant.  Update the project schedule to show the variances that will result.  Update the budget plan so your customer and management understand fully what affect the replanning will have on the project financials.  And begin to build the new realistic project schedule that will guide you through the restart and beyond and share it with your team and customer using a collaborative viewing tool like Seavus’ Project Viewer.

On the plus side, there may be positive impacts of the replanning and redirection effort.  Maybe it was due to improved functionality in the software you’re providing that will greatly help the customer.  Or maybe it was due to a major new requirement requested by the customer that will provide them a much better solution to meet their needs.  Replanning isn’t always bad, not always negative.  Document both the positive and negative aspects of the replanning effort and what it means to the final solution.

Obtain input from all of the people affected by the replanning?

Remember that you are not a one-man band.  Involve your full team, involve the customer and their project team.  And definitely involve the customer’s end users and subject matter experts (SMEs).  You don’t want to head off in a new direction – even if that new direction comes from the customer and means more revenue – without addressing it with everyone involved.  Because you can still risk delivering a solution that doesn’t meet end user needs.