Turnaround Project Planning Primer

Turnaround Management

Plant turnarounds constitute the single largest identifiable maintenance expense. Controlling turnaround costs and duration represents a definite challenge.

Turnaround management’s potential for cost savings is dramatic, and it directly contributes to the Company’s bottom line profits. A million saved is a million earned.

Managing plant turnarounds, it follows, is extremely important. And in order to manage turnarounds, we have two choices: either we seek out those that "manage" based on their experience, personality, etc. (an intuitive manager), or instead we seek out tried and proven systems and procedures that do not depend on chance.

Systems and Procedures

Time-tested and proven systems and procedures can facilitate the flow of information and decisions within a turnaround organization. They can improve the overall efficiency of the organization.

Proven systems and procedures remove the burden of improvising on the fly. They also often improve the objectivity of the information flowing throughout the organization, and to a certain extent also "depersonalizes" the information removing the fear of becoming the "bearer of bad news" which often tempts some individuals in withholding information deemed negative or damaging.

Systems and procedures ensure the continuity of operations even through changes in the organization. They also facilitate training new personnel, and eliminate friction among employees who might be tempted to implement their own (and often conflicting) procedures based on their past experiences.


Responsibilities should be assigned in accordance with every person’s skill, experience and motivation. The decision-making responsibility should always be assigned at the lowest possible level in the organization, and based on the importance of the decision involved.

In every case, the responsibility should match the individual’s capacity for achieving the assigned objectives. This will go a long ways towards helping individuals becoming successful.

Placing responsibilities beyond a person’s capacity to perform same is not only unrealistic but counterproductive as well.

When people perceive that they are made fully responsible for tasks which they can execute successfully, their morale, cooperation and productivity will be the highest.


Organizing a turnaround may require rearranging the responsibilities and normal lines of communication within a company. Always seek out the best qualified individual for the job, and assign him to supervise a team of his own choosing whenever possible.

The lines of communication should be clearly spelled out on an organization chart which should be posted where everyone can see it.

The turnaround organization should have the least amount of "layers" to simplify and speed up the information flow. The fewer people involved in passing the word, the more efficient the execution (less delays, less chance of something important getting garbled or omitted, etc.).

The turnaround organization chart should be prepared and posted well in advance of the turnaround. This will eliminate surprises and allow those involved to prepare for their new roles.

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The Turnaround Project Management Primer is an abridged version of the STO Management Handbook.

For further reading, we also recommend Joel Levitt’s Managing Maintenance Shutdowns and Outages.