Consolidated Planning is key to anyone planning to undertake an Association for Project Management (APM) Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) application, will need to demonstrate compliance with a number of ‘competencies’, including consolidated planning. These are laid out in the ChPP application guidance published on the APM web site, on their ChPP pages. An applicant will need to show 12 of them in their written Professional Practice application. There are 10 mandatory ones, including Consolidated Planning, with one of them having two options which effectively means there are 10 to be chosen from 11. There are also 2 elective competencies drawn from a further list of 15. All good so far and all of this is quite clearly explained in the guidance. However, as we coach many through their application process, we encounter regular issues with a number of these competencies and how they are interpreted. The one that appears to be most tricky and causes significant problems to navigate is that of Consolidated Planning and there are very good and understandable reasons why this is the case.
If you Google the phrase ‘Consolidated Planning’ the second entry in the list will direct you towards a document called the APM Competence Framework. This is the second edition, and I will return to that later. It should be noted that apart from this one fairly clear link there is no other reference that Google can find of any authoritative references. There is something about a housing collective in Tennessee who use Consolidated Planning and the Northern Ireland Executive seem to use Consolidated Planning for something around benefits management. I stopped looking at page 3. A student of the project management lexicon could be excused for feeling a little bemused with so little to go on. I shall try and illuminate a path through this with a bit of a history lesson.
Consolidated Planning in the First Edition of the APM Competence Framework
The first edition of the APM Competence Framework, published in 2008, was geared around the Body of Knowledge 5th edition 2006 (BoK 5) which didn’t contain a section on Consolidated Planning but what it did have (and so did the Competence Framework) was an entry relating to the compilation of a Project Management Plan (PMP), which it described as: –
“The Project Management Plan brings together all the plans for the project. The purpose is to document the outcomes of the planning process and to provide the reference document for managing the project. The PMP is owned by the project manager”.
Apart from the obvious issue that this rather implies that the PMP is a single document, and although it would be naive to think that even a moderately large project would have a single document sitting (gathering dust) on the shelf, this is a useful definition. The PMP therefore can be likened to the Haynes Workshop manual for the project, the processes to be followed, the guiding strategy and the various schedules and plans that relate to the work involved. The PMP also seemed to be a fairly prescriptive term, one that was central to the British Standard (BS6079) for Project Management.
Most students and practitioners at the time were fully aware of these disciplines as BoK 5 had the same reference in its glossary and consequently they were able to put the pieces of the jigsaw together. There was a clear line of sight between the Competence Framework and the technical underpinning knowledge associated with it in BoK 5. All good so far.
Consolidated Planning in the Body of Knowledge 6th Edition
With the advent of the Body of Knowledge 6th Edition (BoK 6) in 2012, there was a dramatic shift away from the previously held description and the use of the term PMP became a bit more muddled. The (BoK 6) glossary definition became: –
“The output of the definition phase of a project or programme”https://www.apm.org.uk/media/1605/final-proof-bok-6-definitions.pdf
There are a couple of obvious issues with this, one, what if there isn’t a ‘definition’ phase and secondly, how can there be a Project Management Plan for a programme? I will let you ponder that and return to it later. In this revision, BoK 6 point finessed completely the whole concept of a PMP and it was mentioned just 3 times and two of those were in the glossary itself. Overall, you could be excused for thinking that the term was becoming irrelevant to contemporary project management disciplines. However, it still had a lot of traction in the industry, primarily because most training organisations had it embedded in their material and the APM were still examining it as part of the APMP (latterly APM-PMQ) qualification. This is quite interesting as the APM were effectively examining something that was not considered to be important enough to appear in the Body of Knowledge. It was therefore left to training providers to make sense of the syllabus and join the dots. When I wrote the APM-APMP and then the APM-PMQ study guide a large section was devoted to do just that.
Also, during this revision, the concept of a ‘Project’ was blended with and thus included, the concepts of ‘Programmes’ and ‘Portfolios’. Because it was too long winded to keep writing ‘Project, Programme or Portfolio’ the authors of BoK 6 decided to use the term ‘Change Initiative’. This term is another cause of problems and is widely confused with the concept of change control or change management. It is not, instead it is a contrived term used as a collective term for Projects, Programmes and Portfolios. Understanding this background is important as it helps unpick what is necessary to demonstrate this mandatory (Consolidated Planning) competence.
Consolidated Planning in Competence Framework 2nd Edition
The second edition of the Competence Framework was released in 2015 and was updated to accommodate Change Initiatives aligning with the context of BoK 6. Presumably, because it would be wrong to discuss PROJECT management planning for PROGRAMMES OR PORTFOLIOS, a new term was needed to classify the section to replace the previous Project Management Planning one, that having been removed from the BoK 6 text. This then is the first time Consolidated Planning emerges as a term.
The entry in the full the Competence Framework for Consolidated Planning 2nd Edition says: –
“ Consolidated Planning: The ability to consolidate and document the fundamental components of a change initiative: scope; schedule; resource requirements; budgets; risks, opportunities and issues; and quality requirements. The consolidated plan brings together all of the plans for the change initiative. It need not be a single document but can make reference to other plans including stakeholder management and communications, risk management, quality management. The purpose of the consolidated plan is to document the outcomes of the whole planning process and to provide the primary reference for managing the change initiative.”https://www.apm.org.uk/resources/find-a-resource/competence-framework/
As mentioned, this is the sum of perceived wisdom as to what Consolidated Planning means. It has no theoretical basis in any BoK other than by inference. Incidentally, as the Competence Framework self-assessment asks for assessment of technical knowledge against a scale it’s a jolly good job that there is precious little technical knowledge to demonstrate, namely that an individual knows about a) Formats for consolidated plans and b) The purpose of a consolidated plan and how to prepare a consolidated plan. These two have morphed progressively into the ChPP competence framework – see later.
Consolidated Planning in Body of Knowledge 7th Edition
If we roll forward a few years, we see the genesis of Body of Knowledge 7th Edition (BoK 7) in 2019. This is where it all gets interesting as BoK 7 has resurrected the idea of a PMP with a definition as
‘The output of process of integrated planning for a project or programme’ [sic.].https://www.apm.org.uk/resources/glossary/
So now apart from the obvious errors in the grammar, it resurrects the idea that the PMP is once again central to the whole idea of Project Management Planning, although there is still the concept of a Project Management Plan for a PROGRAMME, but never mind. It should be pointed out though that according to BoK 7 it is now the output of ‘Integrated Planning’ – please note not ‘Consolidated Planning’. Upon inspection of BoK 7, it would appear then that the usage of the term in the Competence Framework 2nd Edition is similar in meaning to the wording of the BoK 7 text, which seems to be analogous, Integrated Planning = Consolidated Planning.
Consolidated Planning in Other Useful References
The PMP was (and still is) usually a contractual deliverable along with a named project manager. These contracts will contain all sorts of other references to things like risk management, health and safety and so on. The trouble is that contracts contain schedules and this nuance of terminology can become confusing, so applicants are advised to not use the term schedule for anything other than the time phased plan. The concept of a project plan is a larger, more comprehensive, document than just a Gannt Chart.
That aside, there are numerous other ways of describing the PMP giving it different names such as Project Initiation Document (PID) from PRINCE2TM . The Project management Institute in their Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) refer to the PMP as
“a formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and project control. The primary uses of the project plan are to document planning assumptions and decisions, facilitate communication among project stakeholders, and document approved scope, cost, and schedule baselines. A project plan may be summarized or detailed.”https://www.pmi.org/pmbok-guide-standards
If the applicant is referring to a programme rather than a project, then they could legitimately refer to their programme management plan. Managing Successful Programmes (MSPTM) and the Project Management Institute have corresponding definitions for programme plans that could be used.
Some industries and conventions use other terms, such as Project Execution Plan, Project Quality Plan, Project Charter, etc. Some simply refer to the contract if it is comprehensive enough. The general rule of thumb is that any of these terms are applicable so long as the document in question fulfils the same role and comprises substantially the same contents. The PMP is also sometimes blended with the business case, but that is probably not way the APM want to see in this competence.
To coin a phrase, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck!
What Does This Mean for Your Written Application?
If you have been following this carefully, you will have realised that the Competence Framework 2nd Edition that is being used as the basis for the current (2020) ChPP competences had no real specific technical knowledge basis in BoK 6 in its own right and only tangentially by virtue of its similarity to the concept of a PMP from BoK 5. It was therefore impossible to replicate the golden thread between the technical knowledge and the Consolidated Planning competence.
Thus, the Competence Framework 2nd Edition is the ONLY place that the term Consolidated Planning appears. This is the primary reason that people get confused. For the last 10 years or so, students have been (largely) taught BoK 6 with reference to training material or real-world practice of PMPs despite them never actually being referenced in BoK 6. Not surprisingly this disconnect causes problems. Unless they have done formal training of this type (i.e. either APMP, APM-PMQ) or are familiar with PMI PMP® then they will be without hope of interpreting the Consolidated Planning ChPP competence, and being able to make the link between PMPs and Consolidating and in part explaining why the competence is so widely misunderstood.
To understand what is required from an APM centric perspective, applicants need to look at the Competence Framework document and the Integrated Planning (section 4.2 BoK 7). This ought to provide a more comprehensive overview than is available elsewhere. In fact, though, it is very reminiscent of the Project Integration Management section of the PMI Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) to which they could also refer if preferred. Any other standard could also provide a legitimate reference, such as PRINCE 2TM or perhaps Managing Successful Programmes if a programme (plan) is being referred to.
Please bear in mind that Consolidated Planning is tightly interwoven with the APM Governance competence as it refers to the governance of a project. Demonstration of the Governance competence relates to the organisational governance of the project, and how the applicant has made suitable arrangements to reflect that interaction on their project. I have written a separate article on Governance; do a Google and you will find it.
The idea of unpicking the competencies is further confused by virtue of the fact that they have been derived from the full competence framework, in some cases re-written and in others combined to form the ones that appear in the ChPP guidance document. I have cross mapped the two below to try and show the genesis of the ChPP Consolidated Planning competencies to help provide applicants with a little more background. It is not clear why the APM decided to re-write the Competence Framework and truncated and merged some of the criteria, presumably to try and reduce the quantity (although paradoxically in this case they have ended up with more) and at the same time arguably confused the issue greatly. Your written application is concerned with the Professional Practice criteria, so I have addressed these first below. I have taken the liberty of cutting out some of the unnecessary words from the APM wording to provide a more clear and uncluttered view that might help.
|Consolidated Planning |
ChPP Competence Wording
| Consolidated Planning |
APM Competence Framework wording
| Consolidated Planning |
My truncated version
|PP1.1 comply with organisational practice when establishing the structure and format of an effective consolidated plan||A1 Identifies the structure and format required for the consolidated plan to provide an effective reference, and in accordance with the practices of the organisation.||Comply with organisational practice when writing a PMP|
|PP1.2 consider constraints, assumptions, dependencies and governance arrangements when creating a consolidated plan PP1.3 include or refer to other relevant plans and documentation||A2 Creates a consolidated plan to support overall management, taking account of previous lessons learnt and including: business case relevant constraints, assumptions and dependencies governance arrangements, organisational structure, reporting arrangements and metrics, stakeholder and communications management plan key performance indicators to evaluate benefit realisation.||Refer to other relevant plans and documentation, making clear constraints dependencies, assumptions and governance arrangements|
|PP1.4 create a consolidated plan which balances the fundamental components of that plan to meet the requirements of a project and ensure formal acceptance of the plan PP2.1 apply configuration management to a plan once it has been formally accepted||A3 Ensures the consolidated plan balances the fundamental components of scope, schedule, resource requirements, budgets, risks and issues, and quality requirements, and matches the requirements of the change initiative. A4 Obtains formal acceptance of the consolidated plan and subjects it to configuration management.||Refer to the key elements of a PMP and make sure you identify how it was approved, and how you managed it after approval|
|PP2.2 continually monitor the progress of a project against the consolidated plan||A5 Monitors progress against the consolidated plan.||Show how you monitored the PMP|
|PP2.3 adjust the consolidated plan utilising a change control process||A6 Refines the consolidated plan as appropriate, implementing the change control process where relevant.||Show how you adjusted the PMP using change control|
Consolidated Planning The Technical Knowledge competencies
These are tested at interview. The assessors could legitimately ask you about the following about Consolidated Planning and you will need to be able to explain what you understand by each one. Please bear in mind that this is technical knowledge. The ChPP guidance says:-
“The technical knowledge questions are designed to assess your breadth of knowledge against the criteria and answers to these questions do not specifically have to relate to your own experience.”
In that they do not necessarily need to relate to your experience means that they CAN relate to your experience. The main thrust of this though is that they are looking at your ability to think beyond what you do and begin to explore how you do things and why, and what other options there may be. Again, I have tried to describe the relationship between the competence framework and the ChPP guidance and supplied my own rather stripped down version that might help.
| Consolidated Planning |
ChPP Competence Wording
| Consolidated Planning |
APM Competence Framework wording
| Consolidated Planning |
My truncated version
|TK1.1. Critically evaluate the purpose of a consolidated plan||K2 The purpose of a consolidated plan and how to prepare a consolidated plan.||Why have a PMP (or similar)?|
|TK1.2 Evaluate the importance of monitoring the relationship between a consolidated plan and the progress of a project||Why compare progress with the plan?|
|TK2.1 Analyse different formats for consolidated plans||K1 Formats for consolidated plans.||Know the difference between a PMP, Programme Plan, PID from PRINCE2TM etc.|
|TK2.2 Analyse situations, potential or real, where a consolidated plan may have to be adjusted in the context of a project||When might a plan need to change?|
So, in summary, the key points to take away
- Consolidated planning is about creating the controlling document for the project – AKA the PMP.
- Integrated planning in BoK7 is the core reference for Consolidated Planning.
- Change Initiative means Project, Programme of Portfolio, it is NOT change management or change control.
- If you do not recognise the term PMP then try and find the document that replaces it (PID, Project Quality Plan, etc.).
- Even though you might want to refer to contract schedules, reserve the word schedule as the time (Gantt Chart) aspects of the project.
- You do not need to be quoting APM terminology, if you are used to another vocabulary you can refer to this instead. In fact, other references to integrated planning are arguably more comprehensive.
- As with all the other competencies make sure you talk a lot about YOU, what YOU did, provide clear evidence of HOW you did things, and WHY.
I hope this helps clear things up a bit, I regularly have these conversations with many applicants and thought that writing it down might help a few of you. Good luck and if you need some help drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.