Consulting 5.3 Explaining progress: Changing and changed plans

Plans don't always go the way we want them to. Client arrangements, team and cost issues may force you to make new plans. This lesson will help you change plans or your approach if you've encountered problems, predicted or not.


As much as we wish that every plan would continue smoothly without change or trouble, it's simply not the case. Sometimes meetings get pushed back, milestones change, analysis takes longer or shorter than expected or unforeseeable things happen.

Warm Up: 

Read the following dialog: 

Ben: Hey Dan, how's it going? 
Daniel: Can't complain... What can I do for you, Ben? 
Ben: Okay, well, this is a bit awkward, but I just heard that the client pushback happened this morning. I didn't hear about it until just now. So I lost a few hours work. I was just wondering what happened there.
Daniel: Oh! That information should have been passed on to you!
Ben: Well, it wasn't. What happened?
Daniel: Okay, jeez. Well, I think I do know why. So, we have those Monday meetings, right? But the manager took us by surprise. He sat in on the meeting. He wasn't supposed to be there—it was just going to be us and our counterparts. 
Ben: Oh... that's a recipe for trouble.
Daniel: Yea, tell me about it. So we started by confirming the strategy. You know, it was a pretty bold one, and of course, we had full buy-in. But when the manager saw some of the details in the first stage of the plan, he started getting cold feet. 
Ben: Right. But those are just for the transition. The long-term profits will be amazing. 
Daniel: Yea. But then Ken—by the way, he was in the meeting, too—he tells the manager that we can change course, and we can dial it back a bit. 
Ben: Oh no! 
Daniel: Yea. I was like, Ken, no! But of course, I didn't say that. 
Ben: Of course. 
Daniel: So, we went straight to our overseeing partner, Rachael, to report what happened. She was not happy. Ken should have told you right after that, but I guess he didn't? 
Ben: Nope. 
Daniel: Okay. I have to have a word with Ken.

  1. What do you think about this situation? 
  2. There are some idioms in this dialog. Can you find and identify them?
  3. What is some language you notice about changing plans?

A. There are three common ways to talk about expectations versus unexpected situations:

  1. Was going to—used for a past plan or expectation when the present situation is not what was expected. 
    • The weather report said it was going to be sunny all day, but now it's raining. I wish I'd brought my umbrella!
    • I was going to tell you, but then I got a call from the client and had to go to their office ASAP. I'm sorry!
  2. Was supposed to—used for an unmet past expectation. 
    • Ken was supposed to tell you. He didn't?! I wonder why not...
    • I was supposed to finish by 8 PM, but I hit a snag and had to work past midnight. 
    • This project was supposed to be quite ambitious, but the client got cold feet and now it's a pretty typical plan.
  3. Should have/Should be—used for a strong past expectation when the present situation was unexpected. 
    • I'm so sorry! I should have told you right away.
    • I should have brought my umbrella.
    • Personally, I think this project should be more ambitious!
    • The documents should be coming in tomorrow morning.  

B. Talking about the future is relatively simple: 

  1. Now we are going to...
  2. Moving forward, we're going to...
  3. We have to.../We need to.../We've got to...

A. Look at the following situations and report what's happening: 

  1. The principal says, "We just uncovered some new data showing that Plan A would lead to profits of about $4m, while Plan B now has projected profits of $7m." 
    • You have a meeting with a colleague who hasn't heard. Tell them, and guess if you think your team will pursue Plan B.
  2. You estimated that you could finish analyzing data by the end of the day. It's now past midnight and you realize you are definitely not going to finish.
    • You have a meeting scheduled with your team leader in the morning to go over the analysis. Write an email to them.
  3. You have a meeting scheduled with an expert, but something came up and they had to push the meeting to tomorrow morning.
    • You see your team leader in the elevator. Let them know. 
  4. The expert above didn't show up to the rescheduled meeting. You'd even changed your schedule to accommodate them! You plan on sending them an email.
    • Let your team leader know. 
  5. It turns out the expert had meant their local time, but they hadn't specified a time zone and you didn't check—you take that as your mistake. You've rescheduled. 
    • Your team leader sees you in the hall and asks, "So what happened with that interview?"

B. Now think of some changes you've experienced. Try to think of both small and big examples.