Managing the Project

Managing the Project #

A plan to go from this… #

Old timber frame

Figure 1: Old timber frame at Hitcham, Suffolk

As a project takes shape there may be enthusiasm to make progress, particularly start raising money. However, it is advisable to plan the project, considering in some detail what has to be done when, how, by whom, with what resources first. The plan will ideally run from the earliest discussions through to project completion. Careful planning should reduce the overall duration, save money and make sure that the whole project runs smoothly and meets its aims.

TOP TIP: Asking who, what, when, where, why, how, are useful prompts at every stage!

There is a wide range of material available about planning and running projects. Look for basic guides online and in books. A focus on charities and the voluntary sector is most likely to be helpful for bell projects. There is no “right” way to manage a project so this guidance should be adjusted to fit the specific project.

A particularly comprehensive set of information about church projects is here.

Scheduling Activities #

The project leader will usually consider the project in stages, with each stage reaching a logical point, for example:

  • Scoping the project - concept definition and information gathering
  • Requesting permission and detailed planning
  • Selecting contractors and placing contracts
  • Undertaking the work off site and on site
  • Completion and close down

Key dates, activities, their durations and milestones should be planned in conjunction with those involved, i.e. stakeholders, contractors and suppliers.

Much of the detailed work in each stage will be managed by various contractors, but coordinating their activities is a key role of the project leader. Not every activity needs to be sequential and time will be saved if activities are accomplished in parallel whenever possible.

Be realistic when planning the timetable, not optimistic, as approvals and tasks often take longer than anticipated. At every stage consider the risks and include contingencies to prevent the whole project timescale drifting. The risk is that when time is short, people and activities may be rushed, so accidents and errors may increase. But leaving time for contingencies is not an excuse for poor planning.

Identify clearly the key dates that have to be fixed. For example, a decision making committee may only meet once a quarter, so find out when their meetings will be held, when they need information to be submitted, and note these in the plan.

Plan meetings with stakeholders, contractors and suppliers. While some meetings may now be virtual, face to face meetings are still very effective and often enable better personal interaction, especially in the early stages of a project. Meetings help to keep everyone up to date with progress and also offer the opportunity to ask questions. If on site, then progress will be much more apparent.

Watch what interdependencies there may between various activities: changes in the timing of one activity will affect others that follow. For example, specific equipment and materials will be required at precise times, with some requiring large areas for storage and security until used.

Careful consideration of phasing may enable money to be saved: for example, can the period during which items are hired be minimised, to reduce hire costs?

For every activity in the plan, consider carefully who else needs to be involved and what else will be needed. Talking through each activity with members of the project team may expose key points that are easily overlooked yet may be critical and time consuming. When and how will reports be required for the PCC, funders and other stakeholders – verbal, written, electronic / on paper? Reports at specific times may be essential for funders so should not be missed! Adding them to the plan, with time allocated for preparation, may take a few minutes but can save problems and potentially loss of income.

Some grant awarding bodies require reports, data and other actions both during and after the project is complete, some even a few years after the project has been finished. Plan how this will be achieved, even as team members change and show how that data and information will be collected as the project proceeds.

How will progress, changes to the plan or changes of approach be notified to others and recorded? This is all part of good communication – whether by phone, email or electronic tools. It is easy to overlook people who may wish or need to be informed, so setting up specific mailing lists is a wise and efficient way of working.

At the end of the project, leave time to complete all the formalities and tidy up. There may be additional correspondence to be completed so these must be added to records as they are archived for future reference.

Lack of planning can lead to what are described as “unforseen consequences” but they may be the result of poor planning! Ultimately, project management ensures that everything happens, when and how it should!

Project Management Tools #

It is advisable for the project leader to set up systematic ways of managing the project. Comprehensive software packages are available, some very expensive, others freely available, but these are not necessary. It is more important for all those involved to be able to access information and use it. The normal cautions apply if free software is used.

Calendar #

A calendar is a good way of showing the start and end dates of activities in each stage, along with specific milestones, deadlines and events highlighted. Larger projects involving other work in the church are likely to be divided into major phases, only one of which may directly concern the bells.

A long term project may aim first to replace ageing electrical, plumbing and heating systems, then the addition of audio visual aids and wifi. This may be followed by repairs to tower stonework, creation of an accessible entrance and restoration of the bells. Phase 3 could be a building extension with kitchen, serving hatch, meeting rooms and toilet. Each phase would be run as if a separate project, but with careful planning for activities that are interdependent, such as anticipating electrical work in phase 1 for the building extensions in phase 3.

An online calendar enables team members to share and update information as progress is made. Online calendars usually offer the option to show different levels of detail.

A large wall planner displayed at a central location such as in the church, is useful to show progress against key milestones.

Project information documents and records #

Information and documents will be generated and received during a project, including key formal decisions and agreements, as well as useful reference materials. Much of this will be referred to during the project and key documents must be archived on completion. For example:

  • Calendars showing project timetable
  • Records of activities, meeting agendas and minutes, events, progress reports
  • Terms of reference and appointments for key people
  • Contact details
  • Formal contract documents, permissions (respecting commercial confidentiality)
  • Financial records, bank statements
  • Correspondence
  • Event arrangements
  • Presentations, displays
  • Physical artefacts
  • Risk register
  • Health and safety information
  • Reference documents – useful information

The project leader should develop systematic ways of managing information and documentation, including how it can be shared. Most will be in electronic format but some items will still be received on paper particularly those that require wet signatures. A scanned copy of these will be useful, but originals should be retained and archived at the end of the project.

A clear file name convention, good version control, and backup system is essential from the start of the project, as it will save a lot of time, especially as the volume of information expands. Sorting after the project has started is not easy!

Information from suppliers and contractors may be commercially sensitive so should be identified distinctly and handled appropriately. Personal information (contact details, names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses etc) must be stored and managed so that only appropriate people have access to it and consistent with the requirements of the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). A specific statement should define how personal data will be managed in the project, probably based on that set out by the church concerned.

Some grant awarding bodies require reports, data and other actions during and after the project is complete, some even a few years after the project has been finished so plan for this as the project proceeds.

Photographic records #

Photographs and videos are easy to take electronically and will be useful when creating a complete documentary record of the project from the very start through to completion that can be preserved as part of the tower history. As well as being useful, informative and interesting, pictures are helpful as reminders of the status of the project at certain points as well as useful publicity in the course of the project. Perhaps enlist the support of members of a local photographic society as they may be willing to be involved in a more unusual project themselves. Bell towers are often dark and cramped so will pose interesting challenges even for the most enthusiastic amateur photographers!

Money Management #

Formally, money for the project is likely to the responsibility of the Church Treasurer as they will have the authority for payments and bank transactions. However, a project treasurer can help the project leader with costing the work, reviewing financial elements of quotations and contracts, then controlling and managing project funds as income is received and payments are made. Good record keeping is essential and many grant awarding bodies will expect evidence of expenditure and related financial records.

Cash flow will be a concern when more money has to be paid out before it has been raised or received. Contractors will set out the payment terms in their contract and some money may be required in advance, with further stage payments once specific work has been completed. The dates on which payments are due should be included the calendar.

Details of project finance are covered here.

Running the project #

Once all the plans and approvals are in place, along with evidence of the money being available, then the project can start and can become frenetic!

Who will have the last ring on the old bells? This is likely to be a question asked by ringers so plans are likely to include the last quarter peal, last peal and last general ringing. Plan who will be involved in each of these events and use them as publicity opportunities.

Decommissioning and preparations #

Preliminary work will usually be required before external contractors can start the bell related work – for example, in clearing items that are in routine use: chairs, tables, books, papers etc. Are they to be retained in storage, refurbished or disposed of?

It may be necessary to provide protective sheeting and covering for immovable items like flooring, monuments and organ to prevent damage and ingress of dust or debris.

Volunteer labour may undertake some of this but some tasks may require specialist contractors, such as organ builders to protect an organ. Work by volunteers will require advance agreement of the church and main contractors. Bell hangers are accustomed to working with volunteers, subject to insurance arrangements being agreed and project specific risk assessments in place.

Undertaking the work #

Figure 2: A short video taken at the start of the Eastnor, Herefordshire, bells project

The central phase in the project is usually the period during which contractors and volunteers arrive and undertake their work, with a quantities of material and equipment. It will be both exciting as changes take place but also will need careful coordination! Additional items may be required at precise times, and some will require secure storage until used.

At the outset, each contractor will be largely unfamiliar with the location so will need to be assisted with all the formalities (procedures, safety, security etc) and practicalities (toilets, eating and changing facilities etc). It is very easy for clashes to occur even with the best planning so it is essential that the project leader is available to resolve matters as they arise. Not having something or someone available at the right time and place is also likely; alternative arrangements will often have to be made.

Any alteration inevitably means that there are consequences on other activities – being able to notify those concerned and revise all the arrangements can be a challenge!

Delays and unexpected challenges will occur and need to be resolved. A mobile phone and good contacts list will be invaluable but only if there is a phone signal in the tower! Also remember to document any changes agreed with all parties concerned so that everyone is very clear.

Figure 3: Eastnor – the bells return

Snagging #

The contract terms should set out how and by when remedial work will be completed. The project leader should create a “snagging list” (“punch list” in the US) of items that do not meet contractual acceptance criteria and report them to the contractor concerned as soon as possible. As these items are completed by the contractor, they should be rechecked, and then marked completed. During your review of punch list items, keep a careful eye out as new items may be caused by remedial work and if any are noted, they should be added to the punch list and remediated. When the snagging process is completed, the project can move onto the next step.

Blessing and Dedication #

It is customary for the Bishop or other senior church representative to bless the bells, if possible while they are still visible in the church or church yard before being lifted into the tower. This may be at a special service or as part of another church service or ringing event. Often the precise time within the project plan will not be known until relatively late so organisation may be quite complicated. Bells are at risk of theft while not hung in the tower so additional security arrangements may be required.

Alternatively, the re-dedication may be after the bells have been rehung and perhaps rung open (audibly) for the first time. A video link from the bell chamber to the church can be used so that the bells are visible on a screen during the service. The bells would normally not be rung (other than for basic testing) before the dedication service.

Recommissioning #

Plans should set out when and how the bells will be recommissioned. The first ringing after the bells are installed and functioning will usually be by an experienced band who can assist in assessing the new installation with the bell hangers. The acceptance criteria should be set out in the project plans. Ensure that all work activities are completed before each contract is signed off as complete and money paid.

These points should be made clear in the contract.

Completion, First Ringing and Reporting #

Once all work is completed satisfactorily, the tower should be cleaned throughout and items in routine use replaced – chairs, tables, etc. This is an opportunity to clean, restore or replace used items and install additional items to update the facilities available.

Some funders and supporters request reports or evidence that work is complete and these should be supplied stating that they fulfil this requirement. For example, a “Certificate of Practical Completion” must be recorded on the Church of England website.

The project leader should “tidy up” files and records then archive material after an appropriate interval.

It is wise to agree early in the project who and when the first quarter peal and peal are to be rung. This avoids pre-emptive moves by other enthusiastic ringers. Invite ringers who have contributed a lot to the project whether practically, financially or in other ways. Also consider ringers who have had a long association with the tower, even if no longer active locally.

Warning neighbours in advance of ringing recommencing will help avoid complaints and can be an opportunity to recruit new recruits.

And last but not least - Celebrate!

… To this: #

New frame

Figure 4: New frame, with reinstalled and augmented bells at Hitcham, Suffolk

Image Credits #

1Old timber frame at Hitcham, Suffolk (Photo: Neal Dodge)
2Start of the Eastnor bells project (Video: Tim Keyes)
3Eastnor bells return (Video: Tim Keyes)
4New frame, with reinstalled and augmented bells at Hitcham, Suffolk (Photo: Neal Dodge)

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Disclaimer #

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, neither contributors nor the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers can accept responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any activities undertaken based on the information provided.

Version 1.0, May 2023

© 2023 Central Council of Church Bell Ringers