Chapter 6: Step 6 Build the Business Case
"Aim for success, not perfection . Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life."
DR. DAVID M. BURNS
Build a work-breakdown structure of tasks and timelines .
Create the cost-savings formulas and required budget.
Name the initiative and develop a marketing plan.
Build a tailorable business case.
The strategic plan is a detailed document that defines your research, goals, and the execution plans necessary to transform your company into a learning organization. It's likely to be hundreds of pages long and filled with difficult-to-follow training jargon, statistics, and budgetary formulas. It's an invaluable record of your efforts and intentions, but it's not the document that will win the understanding and support of your executive team.
The business case, on the other hand, is the tactical sales presentation that you build around your strategic plan. It is a living, breathing showcase of your goals, and it determines whether you get the goahead for your initiative. It's the strategic plan reinvented as an appealing, easy-to-digest presentation focusing on the "what's in it for me" factor for any audience.
Taking what you know and what you've recorded in your strategic plan, you will create a business-case document that provides an overview of what your initiative will do for the company if management supports it. At its foundation is an overview of your written strategy revamped to highlight key points that will be appealing to specific groups and will demonstrate the value of your project. Blended within your goals is the story of the transformation process that must occur if you are to revolutionize your corporate culture and transform the company into a learning organization.
All of your research and hard work will have been a waste of time if you ignore this step or approach it with minimal effort, because your success hinges on your ability to sell the project to a broad variety of vested interests within your organization.
Before You Build: Define Tasks , Actions, and Budgets
Before you write the final business case, define the tasks required to implement each element of your strategy and then break each one down into minute detail. For each action item, record what it will take to achieve that action, including time, materials, training, roles, and any cultural issues that will affect your ability to complete the task.
Cultural issues can be a significant impediment to the successful completion of a task, so look closely at the potential obstacles that lie in your way. Even if you have the necessary budget, time, and resources, an unidentified cultural problem can plague even the most well-put-together training plan. For example, through our cultural assessment at Rockwell Collins we discovered that most managers believed that employees at their desks should be working ”not training. This was a major cultural roadblock founded in a history of working with military contracts that required workers to account for their hours. Because we identified this issue early on, we had a plan to work around it by building training resource rooms where employees could get self-paced e-learning outside the office. We circumvented a potential cultural impediment that could have dealt us a major blow even though all of the other elements of our plan were top notch .
Within your task definitions, include a separate budget for each element of the plan. If you are doing e-learning, include vendors , software and hardware costs, licenses, and infrastructure. Set roles and responsibilities for your team, adding a budget for new members if necessary. Include time and costs for maintaining the legacy system while you implement the new system. In our industry we are required to keep training records for all employees until five years after they leave, so we factored record keeping in. Marketing is also a relevant budgetary factor. It won't be enough just to launch your project; you need to sell it throughout the company with giveaways, posters , mailings , and events. Make sure you have the people and dollars set aside to support that need.
Using this information, build an overarching work-breakdown structure ”a comprehensive list of the tasks you need to complete in order to achieve each goal, and how those tasks will affect the others, moving from today to your vision of the future state of training. Using a project-management software program, such as Microsoft Project, you can flow these activities into a map that clearly shows which tasks will be performed when and by whom, the scope of the tasks, projected time and resources required, and how the tasks will impact each other. The more detail you can provide, the more accurate your work-breakdown structure will be, which will give your final budget request legitimacy .
The work-breakdown structure will give you a road map that delineates how and when you can achieve each goal. You'll refer to it endlessly throughout the life cycle of your project, to verify that you are on track or to rethink your original plan. But remember that committing something to paper doesn't mean it can't be changed. As you craft this document, realize that as technology and the industry advance, your goals and tasks will be affected. This is the rough draft, but you need it to be defined if you are going to improve on it.
At Rockwell Collins, we created several individual work-breakdown structures, mapping the tasks required for each phase of the project, including choosing vendors for each of our tools, charting our work processes, building learning labs, and launching the learning councils. Because we had researched the industry while we were investigating our cultural issues, we had already compiled lists of the tools, vendors, and infrastructure we intended to purchase, so it was easy to break those details down into budgets, times, and schedules. We then combined all the documents into a consolidated eighty-seven-page work-breakdown structure outlining more than 750 tasks and timelines covering thirty-six months.