What is a management plan?

A management plan is an expression of the policy of an organisation in the form of a citation, or description, of the site, and what has to be done to maintain or improve it. It highlights the important features that have to be managed through setting measurable targets of management (the text plan), and how management should be carried out to meet the objectives (the operational plan or action plan). The dynamic coupling of the text plan and the operational plan produce a management system.

Whether managing a community garden or a national park, the operational logic is the same. There is a need to adhere to the following procedure:

· set measurable objectives;
· specify how the objectives are to be met;
· plan what has to be done, and record what is actually done, so that work may continue year on year, and know-how is preserved and communicated.
. monitor how close the outcomes are to the objectives.

The differences between management systems will be related to the level of detail specifying what has to be done, which in turn defines what can be recorded and reported.

The term action plan is sometimes applied to that part of the management system that defines the management procedures in the form of scheduled work programmes.

What is an operational plan?

An operational plan is a set of information and tasks for managers to control the condition or state of the important features of the site for which they have responsibility. The site, for example, can be a business park, nature reserve or the neighbourhood of a community. A feature, for example, can be a woodland, a butterfly, a footpath, or an education programme.

The plan is arranged in a sequence of nine logical information categories. This sequence of information traces the plan from its objectives, through work to meet the objectives, to the process of communicating the outcomes of this work.

  • Information Category 1 : Features
A feature is a point of focus for management, such as a species, a habitat, a service, or an issue.

  • Information Category 2 : Objectives
An objective is a statement of what management wants to do about the condition of a particular feature of the site. A measurable attribute of the feature is incorporated into the objective, and assigned a value as the management target. The attribute is a vital part of the objective because its current value tells management how close the feature is to being in a desirable state or favourable condition.

  • Information Category 3: Management factors
A factor is anything that influences the ability of managers to achieve an objective. Factors can have a negative or positive influence on reaching an objective. The aim of management is to control factors to ensure the condition of features is favourable, and that a favourable status is maintained in the long-term.

  • Information Category 4: Management procedures (action plans)
Management procedures describe the planned actions to control factors. These procedures are produced in the form of projects. A project consists of an individual piece of work that organises the inputs of resources, to control a factor in order to reach an objective. It is essentially a diary stating what has to be done, when it has to be done, who is to do it, what they will need to do it, when the work was done and what ws the outcome.

The core of a management procedure is a collection of projects. Projects describe the work aimed at managing those factors that impede or help efforts to reach the objectives, and say how the outcomes of the work are to be monitored in relation to the objectives.

The description of a project in the action plan may be defined as a set of notes. There is a note for every item of information in a project — every task, resource requirement etc. — is described in a note.

Each note is related to a time schedule, or diary, saying when the project begins and ends, where it will take place, what resources will be required, how the work will be carried out, who will be involved, when, and for how long, and what it will cost. The collection of notes makes the project a statement of what actions have been planned.

  • Information Category 5: Prescriptions
A prescription is simply a collection of projects aimed at controlling a particular factor. This category brings a set of related projects together for convenience of access.

  • Information Category 6: Objective monitoring
Objectives are monitored by selecting at least one attribute of the feature that can be quantified and assigning a value to be the target of its management. In other words, attributes of features are performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of management in reaching the plan’s goals. This requires setting up special objective-monitoring projects to measure the attributes of features that have been chosen for monitoring the objectives.

  • Information Category 7: Factor monitoring
Measuring the outcome of a procedure to control a factor is not vital, but is important as a basis for improving management procedures. This requires that special factor-monitoring projects are set up to record what effect management has had on the factors it is trying to control.

  • Information Category 8: Records
As a project proceeds, records are kept of any changes to procedures (e.g. staffing costs etc), and records are made of events that demonstrate what was actually done.

  • Information Category 9: Reports
Reports consist of information extracted from the various information categories about:-
· what has to be done (extracted from the project descriptions);
· the work that has actually been done (extracted from the records of management procedures);
· what has been achieved as an outcome in relation to the objectives (extracted from the records of features monitoring).

What is a management database?

The starting point of the operational plan is a set of objectives addressing the state of important features of the organisation. Each objective will have a sub-category of factors. Each factor will have a sub-category of projects that address it. In this sense, the general structure of an action plan is a set of nested categories of information.

The starter category is a description of the features. This leads logically through sub-categories of objectives, prescriptions and projects. This one-to-many arrangement of information is called a relational database.

The simplest way to produce this nested topic, or tree-structure, is to create a word processor document using style sheets and formatted numbered lists.

Two kinds of software take the word processor model further in terms of making the system more user-friendly, and making it easier to report on the work carried out.
Document-processors establish hyperlinks between the various categories and sub-categories of information so that is easy to update and retrieve the information.
Card-processors establish links between on-screen record cards, each of which contains an item of information. The main functional difference between document processors and card processors is that the latter have standard fields for inputting specific information, and they allow the most powerful and flexible retrieval of information for assembling reports.

Document processors, often described as topic or category outliners, are the simplest tools for making, arranging, and sorting through many categories of information. They split up an action plan into manageable proportions giving a dual screen view of the information. The left-hand screen displays the categories as headings and sub-headings. Any information attached to a highlighted category appears in the right-hand screen. Hot-links can be made between information in the right hand screen and other files. Importantly, in the long-term, a document processor provides a complete archive of an action plan that can be passed on to others in the form of a structured word-processor file. A document processor is particularly useful in producing the text plan and keeping it ‘alive’.

Card processors also divide a plan into manageable portions. Filling in on-screen record cards assembles the information. These cards can be arranged into categories and subcategories. Card-processors let you look at information via a calendar, timeline, graph, browser, or a map. They allow a variety of reports to be made by filtering out items of information using key words, job codes, personnel or dates.
Learn more about making conservation management plans

What are the advantages of management systems?

The following list summarises the main advantages in adopting a management system for the conservation of community heritage assets.

Having an on-going management system for planning, recording and reporting facilitates:-

(i) Continuity of information about objectives, methods and outcomes from year to year, irrespective of personalities involved in the organisation.
(ii) Tracking many projects and their operational targets, and monitoring operational outcomes to ensure value for money. All information is ‘live’ and brought together in one place for ease of retrieval and updating.
(iii) Making applications for sponsorships, and reporting to funding agencies on outcomes of sponsored work.
(iv) Integrating research activities on management factors with site operations. This process often highlights gaps in research, and ensures that research is tailored to meet the needs of the local operational plan.
(v) Training to build staff confidence in working to a management plan. This requires everyone sharing a simple overview of all dimensions of management, and the value of reporting on performance indicators.
(vi) Contributing to local and national sustainable development strategies. This requires that many routes from operational objectives to the wider world be kept visible and active. Audit routes are available to and from tick-boxes for strategic level reporting on the states of habitats, species and infrastructures, to evaluate operational methods.
(vii) Interfacing with the local community, schools, and visitors, needs easy access to all management categories. Opening up the management plan in a user friendly way to these groups can be effective in bringing conservation management to the centre of day to day issues in home and community.