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Change-capable planning - CITI
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Change-capable planning

In the latter half of the 19th Century, the Prussian Field Marshall Moltke asserted that ‘no plan survives the first encounter with the enemy’, his point being that planning is necessary to explore and prepare for multiple potential future eventualities, whilst recognising that no plan can provide an accurate view of the future reality that will unfold. Half a century, or so, later, a possibly more famous soldier, and US president, Dwight Eisenhower elaborated this stating that ‘plans are worthless, but planning is indispensable,’ these are both clear insights into the fact that the future is never certain but thinking about and preparing for it is valuable, because things won’t go as planned. Consequently, you need to know what other viable options exist and when to resort to them. Inevitably things will change from what was expected and it is therefore necessary to create ‘change-capable’ plans.

Integrated plans and planning, the last blogs central topic, are fundamental to creating ‘change-capable’ plans. The schedule, whilst frequently the principal control documents as it depicts the project timeline, is not the plan. For example, the schedule is reviewed and updated frequently, this schedule amendment really shouldn’t be viewed as re-planning; it is simply the tactical fiddling with low level parameters (principally staff availability, and delivery timings) that have little effect on the overall strategic intentions and direction.

The plan itself isn’t subject to such frequent change. However, its creation has forced a consideration of multiple different tactical approaches to delivering the same outputs, so when a change becomes necessary there is an awareness of what the options are, and the appropriate selection becomes relatively straight-forward. Put simply, the ability to frequently and safely vary the schedule relies on having been diligent in creating the plan in the first instance.

A truly change-capable plan accommodates multiple perspectives of the same environment to provide the full range of options for moving forward. At CITI we regularly use the metaphor of a map. A map is different from a route-card as it records all viable options for moving from A to B whilst the route-card simply shows you the currently preferred option to make that journey. The map is the consolidated plan, the route-card the current schedule. Changing the route doesn’t change the map or the other options; changing the schedule doesn’t change the plan. So, the plan is a response to the project’s context within the organisation and how to achieve its strategic objectives, the schedule is the currently chosen tactical route to achieving that strategy. Only a context change forces a replan, internal project circumstances altering can be dealt with by a simple rescheduling.

Interestingly the map analogy can be extended further, there are a variety of different maps available for travellers. A map of the rail network is quite distinct from a map of the road network. Neither help the budding pilot much as they don’t record aerial hazards (such as tall masts) or flight corridors; so, a different map is needed for them. All three maps show the same towns, coastlines, and rivers but there the similarity ends. Depending on how much flexibility you need in the options you might be able to exercise, would drive your preference for which type, types, or combination of maps you’d draw together within your multiple perspective, change-capable, plan.

As discussed in the previous blog on this topic (Product based planning) the multiple perspectives on the plan (PBS, WBS, OBS, CBS views of the world), given its dependence on assumptions, constraints and risks provide both triangulation of views, and the ability to understand, more holistically, the impact of any changes. They also fall, quite naturally, out of a sound planning process – so always ensure that your plans are generated as change-capable.


CITI develops and evolves the project, programme and portfolio management capability and talent available to organisations to deliver change. We are a single destination for clients who want to improve their organisational capability development in order to deliver change more successfully.


Our team of consultants are highly qualified to help organisations successfully manage transformation programmes, complex projects and the change impacts that result. Indeed, within our project management consultancy they have all been in senior roles across diverse organisations, managing change through programmes and projects.


Our management training courses include – masterclasses, accredited / qualification-based training courses and CITI’s own Beyond Method learning events. All are specifically designed to improve the leadership skills, capability and talent within those organisations that depend upon programmes and projects to thrive, change and innovate.


With the promise of more predictable delivery and benefits achievement, having the right people in the right place at the right time is the key to success. This involves recognising, and then realising, the full potential of individuals and teams by using our project management capability assessment framework services.


CITI Limited is one of the first, and longest standing, niche consultancies that has led the charge in developing change and project management thinking and essential supporting tools. These are consistently used to assist very capable and intelligent people within a variety of sectors (including IT, communications, financial services, government, and the infrastructure sector), who are undisputed experts in their own disciplines, but need understanding of the project world and how to successfully implement change and new ideas both effectively and efficiently.

Nick Dobson

Nick Dobson, Principal Consultant

Nick is a highly experienced consultant in project and programme management and the sponsorship of such initiatives.

A practitioner, with over 25 years of experience, he has been deeply involved in projects, throughout the lifecycle, as well as discharging operational management functions in a variety of sectors. Nick can be contacted via email at