Planning & Contingencies – No Room for Winging It!

Planning for an on-site project/turnaround/shutdown/outage is a science as well as an art. Successful project planning is the cornerstone of any organization’s ability to execute tasks efficiently and mitigate potential risks. One critical aspect of project planning is ensuring that everything necessary for the project’s success is in place, including equipment, resources, and personnel. In this article, we will explore the process of planning a project where a company must pack everything necessary and pre-qualify personnel, while also delving into the importance of contingency planning to manage unexpected challenges.

A contingency plan is a backup plan designed to address unexpected events or risks that could impact the project’s timeline, budget, or quality. A contingency plan is typically implemented when a specific risk event occurs, and it outlines a series of actions to be taken to mitigate the impact of the event. It is, in essence, a “Plan B” (or “Plan C”, “Plan D”, etc.), to be put in place when things go differently than expected.

Packing for Success

Before embarking on any project, it is essential to make a checklist of everything required to complete the project successfully. This includes:
a. Equipment and Tools: List all equipment, tools, and materials necessary for the project. Ensure they are in good working condition and readily available when needed. Utilizing standardized systems of packing can greatly reduce the time to pack as well as the chance that things are left behind.
b. Resources: Allocate the required manpower, including skilled labor, technical expertise, and project managers. Verify that each team member possesses the necessary qualifications.
c. Documentation: Organize and maintain all relevant documents, such as permits, drawings, along with other necessary paperwork required throughout the project. Keep everything accessible and up-to-date throughout the project.
d. Supplies/Consumables: Secure all necessary supplies and materials to avoid delays and unexpected shortages.

Pre-Qualifying Personnel

The success of any project hinges on the competence of the personnel involved. To pre-qualify the team:
a. Identify Skill Gaps: Analyze the skill requirements for the project. Evaluate the qualifications and expertise of your team members to identify any gaps.
b. Training and Certification: Ensure all personnel have the requisite training and certifications (for both skill set and safety). Consider providing additional training or certifications where necessary. It’s a good idea to spend the extra time here to go above and beyond, as the craft personnel will be the primary key to success.
c. Team Collaboration: Assess the team’s ability to work cohesively and effectively. Encourage open communication and collaboration among team members.
d. Performance Evaluation: Regularly evaluate team members’ performance to identify any issues or areas for improvement.

Thinking Linearly and “What-If” Scenarios

Linear thinking is vital in project planning, as it helps you identify each step in the process and ensure they align correctly. However, equally important is the ability to consider “what-if” scenarios to anticipate potential challenges.
a. Linear Thinking: Break the project down into a sequence of operations, creating a linear timeline. Define the dependencies between tasks, setting milestones and deadlines for each.
b. “What-If” Analysis: Assess potential risks and challenges by asking “what-if” questions. What if a key team member falls ill? What if a critical piece of equipment malfunctions? What if the weather disrupts outdoor work? Consider these scenarios and their impact on the project.

Contingency Planning

Contingency planning involves developing strategies to mitigate risks and address unforeseen circumstances. Here’s how to use contingencies effectively:
a. Risk Assessment: Prioritize identified risks based on their potential impact on the project. Consider the likelihood and consequences of each risk.
b. Contingency Measures: Develop specific strategies for each identified risk. For instance, for a key personnel shortage, maintain a list of qualified substitutes. For equipment failure, have backup equipment or maintenance plans in place.
c. Communication Plan: Ensure that all team members are aware of the contingency plans and their roles in implementing them. Effective communication is key in managing contingencies.
d. Monitoring and Review: Regularly assess the project’s progress and potential risks. Adjust contingency plans as needed based on changing circumstances.

Project planning is a complex process that requires meticulous attention to detail, pre-qualification of personnel, and thorough contingency planning. By thinking linearly through the operations required to achieve the project goal and considering various “what-if” scenarios, a company can better prepare for any unexpected challenges that may arise during the project’s execution. In doing so, organizations can increase their chances of project success while minimizing potential risks and setbacks. In short, “Winging It” should not be the default programming when it comes to project execution.