Planning Process Improvement


Network Rail’s Wessex route serves as a major commuter network into London Waterloo, as well as providing long distance services from the South and Southwest of England, supporting a large volume of leisure traffic to coastal towns and cruise & ferry terminals along the South Coast. Route Planning had been identified as a key focus area in terms of reducing safety risk from late changes and improving productivity through better integration of access, resource and work planning processes. The Delta change programme introduced Lean methodologies to the route, with this project as a specific improvement initiative to continue to embed the Lean philosophy.

“Embracing the Lean methodology, visualisation and process improvement techniques allowed the Wessex route planning team to focus and prioritise on what was really important for the business. Enabling us, through meaningful measurement, to first control, then significantly reduce Short Notice Change. We were able to streamline and improve our end-to-end planning processes though process mapping, eliminating waste. I personally found that Lean Visualisation offered the structure and discipline to efficiently introduce new ideas and ways of working with a high-degree of success. This has now become business as usual and key to our continuous improvement.” Andrew Patten – Route Planning Manager


One of the key motives for this project was the lack of control surrounding Short Notice Change. This was a prime indicator of the poor planning processes throughout the business, significantly impacting the ability to consistently deliver required infrastructure work; consequently, causing regular unplanned disruption to customer services.

Further major issues included:

  • Work delivery groups operating in their own silo, each following different planning processes.
    Even sub-groups within each delivery group were operating different planning processes
  • Complete lack of visibility or transparency of the plan
  • Late change policy and process poorly defined and therefore not followed
  • No recognition of skills/competency requirement, and a lack of adequate training

Process improvement was required in route Access planning, Maintenance delivery units and at
Section level. The key objectives were to standardise processes and align these processes for all
work deliverer groups to key customer milestones.

These issues were affecting key measures; impacting time taken to resolve temporary speed
restrictions and posing safety risks – in turn triggering a backlog of maintenance schedule tasks,
poor productivity results and a disruption to major improvement works. These measures were
cascaded through National Level and Route Level Visual Management, thereby affecting all levels.


In order to overcome these issues, Project7 designed and implemented a Planning Performance
Improvement strategy to enable significant changes to planning processes.

  1. A current state review was conducted using process mapping and practical problem-solving
  2. The ideal future state was mapped and agreed
  3. Defining and understanding the gaps from current to future state, revealed 14 work streams
    covering process, skills and organisation

During the initial 8 months of implementations, Short Notice Change was reduced by 51% –
positioning Wessex as the best performing route for reduction of planning changes.

Lessons Learnt

Awareness of conflicting measures
Poor management of chasing conflicting measures caused a spike in the key short notice change
measure. Visual management helped to identify point of cause and develop containment and
counter-measures. When this matures the route will be identify these areas much quicker.

Change Management Communication
Constant communication of ongoing changes was vital amongst the workforce, as well as voicing
the reasons for these changes – even when stakeholders don’t want to communicate (due to
workload and time constraints). A focus on better communication, particularly reinforcing the
reasons for the changes and the benefits attached.

Improving alignment
Better alignment with the Business Change team was essential in order to coordinate activities
effectively, and prevent duplication and conflicting initiatives.

Due to lack of a client resource allocation and a focus on highly-prioritised areas, two work streams
were not completed – these were classed as having low priority, but would have still added value.
An additional resource request earlier in the implementation would have better progressed these

Impact on Performance