Managing change

No matter how carefully you plan, occurrences you hadn’t anticipated will most likely happen during your project. Perhaps an activity turns out to be more involved than you figured, client needs and desires change, or new technology evolves. When situatio

No matter how carefully you plan, occurrences you hadn’t anticipated will most likely happen during your project. Perhaps an activity turns out to be more involved than you figured, client needs and desires change, or new technology evolves. When situations such as these arise, you may need to change some aspects of your project to respond to these new conditions.

Even though change is necessary and desirable, it always comes at a price. Furthermore, different people may have different opinions about which changes are important and how to implement them.

For many people, project control equals “managing project changes” and managing project changes equals preventing “scope creep”. While this belief is not completely accurate, the perception cannot be ignored. The ability to manage and control the change elements on a project, particularly the project scope, is a key to project success and a key performance indicator for a project manager. To manage project changes effectively, a project manager must utilize all of his/her skills and demonstrate project leadership. In addition to being an insightful measure of individual project management maturity, it is not uncommon for organizations that are in the early stages of adopting project management business approaches to look at how well project changes are being managed to determine whether project management is making a difference.

Responding to change requests

On large projects, formal change-control systems govern how you can assess and act on requests for changes. Whether you handle change requests formally or informally, however, always follow these steps:

– When you receive a request for change to some aspect of your project, clarify exactly what the request is asking you to do.
– If possible, ask for the request in writing or confirm your understanding of the request by writing it down yourself. (In a formal change-control system, people must submit all requests for changes on a change-request form.)
– Determine the potential effect of the change on all aspects of your project. Also consider what may happen if you don’t make the change.
– Decide whether you’ll implement the change. If this change affects other people, involve them in the decision too.
– If you decide not to make the change, tell the requester and explain the reason(s).
– If you decide to make the change, write down the necessary steps to implement the change. (In a formal change-control system, all aspects of a change are detailed in a written change order.)
– Update your project’s plan to reflect any changes in schedules, outcomes, or resource budgets as a result.
– Tell team members and appropriate audiences about the change and the effect you expect it to have on your project.