A Plan of Change can be used to help reveal how a current effort is organized, check if new ideas are logically consistent or examine if a certain action will have the aimed effect. The method can help rethink an effort completely, and from the outset help you focus on what major changes the project should contribute to. We use this method to start off projects, as a tool for project management, with great results, as it guarantees a focused effort. It illuminates what we know and don’t know, where we should be focusing our efforts and ultimately help us ask the right questions, to ensure the project develops with a focused aim and with the anticipated effect.
Book a meeting for at least 2 hours, involving relevant participants that as a group possess deep knowledge of the focus area. Print the Theory of Change (A2) template, or write the headlines on a piece of paper and use it as the focal point for the discussion. In the following example we work from “effects” to “resources”, but you can also begin with “resources” and work towards “effects”.
Write all aimed effects the project should have, on post-it notes. If possible, write how you wish to evaluate the effects. Effects are the result of an effort, and therefore an expression of the change that occurs in the world when the public sector’s action is rolled out (a long term effect, could be, “higher employment”, where the short term effect, leading to it, could be that “companies can access the necessary information about a possible employee”). It's important to distinct long and short terms effects as it helps understand and create a change strategy.
Describe the results that would lead to the desired effects. For example, "Companies will get employees with qualified backgrounds". Be aware, if there are several different results in the effort. Write the results on post-its, and attach them to the template. Draw pathways between the effects and results – and discuss which results precede a given effect.
Write down activities (actions, instructions, contact programs or control visits) the initiative consists of, on post-its. Are all the relevant activities included? If there are activities that are performed by others, then you should also consider adding them. Draw pathways to effects and results.
List the final resources (inputs such as finance, people, buildings, IT, etc.), that will be used to implement the activities. Draw lines to connect resources with activities, results and effects short and long term.
Identify the critical assumptions the theory is based on, and list them. For example: "We assume that we have enough unemployed workers with the skillsets the companies demand."
You are now ready to work with your change plan. What questions does your change plan pose, and how will you proceed to work with new activities and resources, to achieve the aimed effects?