When you need a Plan B

Oh, the perils of the British weather on our research plans!  Projects that go to plan can still be difficult but when you add in some freak British weather, that well prepared and recruited focus group just isn’t going to happen.  So, what do we do? How can we rescue a project from the perils of weather and cancellations?  How can we ensure that our client deadlines and strategic plans can still be met – even if slightly altered.

The short answer is down to relationships and experience.  If you have a good relationship with your client and/or supplier, then most things can be fixed.  Groups can be re-run and shoe horned around other work and priorities.  With experience comes the ability to foresee problems and not rely on blind faith – the ‘it’ll all be fine with fingers crossed’ isn’t the best type of planning.

So, a few tips and considerations.


Once the media start wittering about Armageddon on the roads and public transport – start to think about your plan B. Better to postpone a group with a few days to spare than to leave it until the last minute.  Rearranging with notice can be a lot less expensive than last minute cancelling.

Consider other possible methods, if you were planning some depth interviews, is it possible to switch to telephone depths or Skype? What will be the impact on the feedback?  Will this be a short-term fix to enable decisions to go ahead on time, or is it better to wait and rearrange with the original method? If you need to rearrange to the following week or even later – what other aspects of the process could be speeded up a bit?

Could the debrief be done a little sooner than timetabled?  This is where a good relationship works wonders.  We often spend extra anti-social hours trying to fit around our client’s timetables to help meet deadlines when things haven’t gone to plan. 


If a focus group has been cancelled and then rescheduled, it may not be a simple case of asking the original recruits to come another time. Our participants are also busy people and may not be able to attend the new date.  This means time needs to be allowed for extra recruitment.

For many focus groups, participants know who the research is for when recruited, so this adds further pressure to ensure the cancellation process is planned and managed well.

Other jobs and workloads don’t go away, so flexibility from all sides is essential when re-planning.

The most difficult consideration is of course around money. Who pays when things take more time or require some extra work to pull off the Plan B? Many recruiters and facilitators are independent and don’t have the huge resources of big companies to cover them for these plan B’s.  Again, we come back to relationships and experience – foreseeing problems and fixing them before they happen is definitely a cost saver for everyone. 


So don’t forget to add in a Plan B to your schedule – it could save you some headaches and money.