26 June, 2023

How to Restore Order: Your Ultimate Guide to Project Replanning

You’ve planned your project and you’re good to go. Now you just have to follow your plan until it’s done. Simple. But what if things go wrong? And they will. Then, you need to replan your project. So, here is our ultimate guide to project replanning.

How to Restore Order - Your Ultimate Guide to Project Replanning

The Structure of this Guide to Replanning

In this guide, we’ll be looking at four things:

  1. Why do we Need to Replan?
  2. What do we Need to Replan?
  3. What are the Types of Replanning?
  4. Tips and Guidance for Replanning

So, let’s get started with what causes the need for replanning.

Why do we Need to Replan?

The simple fact is that shift happens. Things rarely go according to plan. Instead, the universe will laugh at any pretend certainty you may have and get on with sticking a spanner in things.

We know this, which is why we have the Monitor and Control Cycle.

Replanning in the Monitor and Control Cycle

During the delivery stage of our projects, we constantly monitor what is happening and then make small interventions to deal with deviations from our plans.

For two more perspectives on Project Delivery, check out:

Usually, that cycle of monitoring status and asserting control through simple interventions, is enough to keep your project on track: on budget, on schedule, to specification. In short… On plan!

However, sometimes we cannot find a suitable intervention to correct our deviation from the plan. Things will start to slip. At the point where your current plan is no longer a helpful guide for your monitoring and control process, you need to act. This is where replanning becomes necessary.

Minor Replanning to Accommodate Small Deviations

Small deviations from the plan will abound. And, as I’ve indicated, you’ll be able to correct many of them within your Monitor and Control Cycle. Some, however, will be bigger. Things like unexpected weather delays, late delivery, or poor estimating may need a bit of replanning.

Minor replanning becomes necessary when corrective actions alone are not adequate. You will need to make a substantive change to the schedule, budget, resource deployment, or approach. The result will be an amendment to your original plan.

But, I am defining ‘minor replanning’ as replanning that starts from your original plan and makes changes to it. If, however, your original plan is a complete bust, and you need to start largely from scratch or overhaul a significant part of that plan, we’re into new territory. This means…

Major Replanning to Handle Large Deviations

In the face of substantial unplanned events, like natural catastrophes, company failure of a key supplier, or a major error or oversight in planning, you will need a new approach, with amended timelines and budgets.

This can create big changes to the predicted out-turn budget and schedule. So, I’ll talk about the governance of this process in the final section of this article. However, it may be that you can devise a whole new approach that will allow you to maintain – to a large degree – your original schedule and budget (or at least one of them!)

So, this major replanning process will not take your original plan – in its entirety – as your starting point. Rather, you will abandon all or a significant part of it. You will need to make new assumptions and start some or all of your planning from scratch.

What are the Deviations that Will Trigger replanning?

So, what are examples of the types of changes or deviations that will trigger some form of replanning? By the way, these changes or deviations are also called ‘deltas’ after the Greek letter delta (Δ) that mathematicians use to signify change.

Common examples include:

  • Changes to supplier terms or rates 
  • Significant movements in lending or foreign exchange rates
  • Requirements for scope, technical, or quality changes
  • New legislative or regulatory requirements
  • Manifestation of certain risks
  • External events like political change or major weather events
  • Schedule slippage or budget over-runs, which can arise through poor initial estimating, or under-performance somewhere in the project

You Need to Expect Replanning

To summarize, let me remind you that change is an inevitable part of the process of Project Management. Things will always happen, that you did not fully expect or plan for. As a consequence, replanning is a natural part of predictive project management. Any project that relies on a paradigm of planning from the outset will need to embrace replanning as a part of its process.

What do we Need to Replan?

It is likely, with major replanning, that you will need to replan a lot of elements of your project. They will probably inter-connected, so that any change in one will cascade and trigger a need to change others. This is why relying on tinkering with your original plan won’t be likely to work. 

But, for smaller deltas, you may be able to make changes to one or maybe a small number of parts of your original plan. After replanning, your new plan will look substantively like the original, but with specific changes here and there.

The Planning Process

So, in replanning, all elements of your normal planning process are up for grabs. This video is one of the most popular on my YouTube channel and describes the whole planning process.

For a detailed article, which expands on the video, check out: ‘Project Planning Process: Navigate the Many Steps You Need’. You may like to pre-empt some of the reasons for needing to re-plan, by reading 12 Project Planning Mistakes… and How to Fix Them.

The Elements of Your Replan

The main things you are likely to need to replan include:

  • Specification of one or more of your deliverables
    This may include changes to compliance standards, functionality, or quality.
  • Schedule
    Whether as a result of schedule slippage or to accommodate new work or new ways of working, rescheduling is a likely part of replanning.
  • Budget
    So, too, is re-budgeting. Indeed, the chances of the costs remaining the same if you make a series of other changes are slim. But again, you may need to re-budget for specific financial reasons – often financial pressures from the sponsoring organization.
  • Resource allocation and deployment
    Changing who does what – and where – is one of the commonest replanning activities.
  • Methods, approaches, solutions
    If what you are doing isn’t working, or if you need to make changes in the outcome yet maintain schedule, budget, or both, then you’ll need to find new ways to get the job done. This aspect of project replanning is all about problem-solving, so take a look at our article, ‘Problem Solving: A Systematic Approach’.

What are the Types of Replanning?

We have already met the ideas of Minor and Major replanning. There are other different types of replanning we need to examine, along with some other key concepts that help to put replanning into proper context. So, we’ll look at:

  • Pre-planning
  • Planning (and baselining)
  • Strategic Replanning
  • Scheduled replanning
  • Unscheduled Replanning
  • Responding to Change Requests
  • Crashing and Fast-tracking (Acceleration Planning)
  • Rebaselining
  • Disaster Recovery


One of the tricks to help minimize the need to replan later on is to get your initial planning right. And this starts with a pre-planning phase. This is about:

  • Understanding the context in great detail 
  • Evaluating every option
  • Ruthlessly identifying, assessing, and mitigating all possible risks
  • Thorough engagement with your stakeholders to learn from them and bring them into alignment with your outline plan

Our Example

Throughout this section, we’ll consider the example of your family meeting up with a friend’s family for a day out. Pre-planning here might be a phone conversation to decide when to meet up and what activity will suit both families.

Planning (and baselining)

Once you’ve been through your pre-planning stage, committing your plan takes attention to detail. But should end up with a thorough plan that also has enough points of flexibility to cope with known risks.

From this plan, you will have your baseline schedule and spending profile. A baseline is the reference against which you will monitor progress and expenditure.

Our Example

In our family meet-up example, planning would be determining the times, booking the event, planning your travel arrangements, and thinking about meals for the two families.

Strategic Replanning

Strategic Replanning refers to the creation of a new plan that accommodates a significant shift in the strategy of the sponsoring organization.

Our Example

In our family meet-up example, strategic replanning would happen if one family can no longer attend the event, perhaps because their daughter has broken a leg in a sports accident. So, you agree to reschedule and find a less activity-focused outing.  

Scheduled replanning

Sometimes, when you plan your project, you know that there are things you do not know – and cannot know until a specific time or event. Perhaps you are implementing a major new system in anticipation of changed legislation. You need to start soon, but the detailed regulations will not be published for another 12 months. 

In this case, you can make only outline plans for aspects of the project. So, you decide to schedule a two-week replanning period in 13 months’ time, so you can accommodate the new information.

Our Example

In our family meet-up example, scheduled replanning would happen if one family is awaiting news of a home move. You may decide on the outing you want, but agree to set up the date and times next month, when the family’s move arrangements become clearer.

Unscheduled Replanning

The way I framed our Minor and Major Replanning earlier in this article was as unscheduled replanning. Something unexpected happens that triggers a need to replan. This is, perhaps, the commonest scenario.

Our Example

In our family meet-up example, maybe a couple of days before the planned outing, the railway company announces the closure of the line you were going to use to travel. Now you need to replan your journey and possibly reschedule the time you meet up. Or, possibly, you decide to reschedule the whole outing.

Responding to Change Requests

The other common cause of project replanning is as a part of the change control process. In evaluating a change request, you will consider the impacts on all aspects of your plan. You will carry out a ‘shadow replanning’ to demonstrate the consequences of the change. Once the change request is approved (if it is), you can then activate the revised plan.

We have a detailed article on Change Control: Project Change Control: What You Need to Know to Make it Effective.

Our Example

In our family meet-up example, let’s say your friend’s partner has a new idea for a better outing. You discuss the implications and decide that it’s a better idea. So, you get to work on replanning the new event.

Crashing and Fast-tracking (Acceleration Planning)

If you come under pressure to complete the project sooner than originally planned, then yes… You need to replan. In this case, the techniques you can use are crashing and fast-tracking.

Most project managers use the terms ‘crashing’ and ‘fast-tracking’ interchangeably. However, to be technically accurate, crashing usually refers to advancing the schedule by using more resources or using your current resources more intensively (like working longer hours). Fast-tracking properly refers to overlapping tasks or bringing work forward. In practice, however, this usually requires additional resources. Hence, the understandable overlap in usage!


Once you have replanned your project, you now have a new schedule and budget to monitor against. The term, ‘rebaselining’ refers to the formal adoption of these new baselines.

Disaster Recovery

If you have a disaster, but you do not have a disaster plan to work to, you’d better get one quickly. This is extreme replanning and I hope you’ll never need to do this, because:

  1. You don’t ever have to deal with a disaster, and 
  2. If you do, you will have an effective Disaster Recover (DR) plan and Crisis Management (CM) plan to work to.

Tips and Guidance for Replanning

The process of replanning will be either:

  1. Problem-solving, support-gathering, and decision-making…
    If you are dealing with a minor replanning process.
  2. A combination of a bit of the above and a lot of the standard planning process…
    If you are dealing with a major replanning process.

As always, you need to base your replanning on reliable information. So start with data gathering, conversations, and analysis. And the more options you generate and the more carefully evaluate them, the more likely you are to come up with a new plan that will stick.

Timing is of the Essence

Timing is of the essence with replanning. But, there is a balance to find. On the one hand, you want to be as quick as possible. Because some activities will be on hold and resources may be sitting idle. There will be limited (possibly no) progress while you are replanning.

On the other hand, however, you also need to take the time it needs to both be rigorous in your process and diligent in your stakeholder engagement and governance processes. Plan out how you will conduct your:

  • Data gathering
  • Analysis and diagnosis
  • Option generation and evaluation
  • Stakeholder consultation and engagement
  • Governance-tier decision-making

Governance of the Replanning Process

This brings me to the final part of the process. From the start of your project, you need to understand (and define) the governance processes around different forms and levels of replanning.

Who needs to be involved in evaluating new plans and what process do they need to follow? Who (individual or group) is empowered to authorize different levels of updated or amended plans?

I suggest that, at the start of your project, you set up:

  1. Replan approval processes
  2. Criteria for assessing what process or level of approval is right
  3. Version control for your project plan

What is Your Perspective on Project Replanning?

Let us know your thoughts, experiences, or questions in the comments below.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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