You spend all that time planning for your project and then it goes and changes on you. But don’t get mad at the project. It’s just what projects do.
Change, you know, is inevitable. There’s no way to prevent it. You wouldn’t want to even if you could. Sometimes change, like risk, can be positive. There can be great opportunities embedded in those unexpected project shifts.
However, you want to make sure that you anticipate where the change may come from. There are ways to plan for change, but what about those changes that were unplanned, or even the ones you expected—what are you going to do about them?
Change Can Change… Everything
When something changes in your project it has a ripple effect and can impact all aspects of your project, team and the organization. You should be aware of the pressure points. It’s not the change necessarily as much as it’s how the change is going to influence one or more of these things:
- Scope creep
- Project team
It’s your job to make sure that change has a minimal impact on the project, team and stakeholders. But you can also turn that change into a positive for all involved.
Types of Changes
To know how to manage change, you have to know where it’s coming from. There are three types of change you have to stay aware of.
- Technical. This kind of change comes from within the organization and can impact the scope of your project.
- Market. This, of course, out of your control. The market is an external force that is influenced by myriad factors. They can be regulatory requirements or the introduction of a competitor’s product.
- Contract. These are contract negotiations with stakeholders, suppliers and vendors. It can impact your scope, schedule, costs and much more, even if you thought you ironed out these long ago.
It’s hard to fight a war on three fronts, but there is a procedure you can follow when change happens so that you’re not scrambling to catch up.
How to Manage Change
You know change happens, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. You know where change is going to disrupt your project and what the various types of change are. But now that the change has happened, it’s up to you to analyze and evaluate.
Is There Money?
No change (good or bad) is free. There’s always a cost inherent. Before you can do anything, you have to make sure you have the funds in your budget to cover the cost of that change. Ideally, you had the foresight you created a slush fund to deal with such emergencies, but if not then you have to decide if you need to request more money from the project sponsor or customer. Before you do this, do the homework and crunch the numbers. It’ll help you to present your case and may make the difference between getting what you request and not getting it.
What is the change going to do?
There’s change that you have to respond to, and then there’s change that you can avoid or defer until later. It’s important that you know whether the change you’re dealing with is one that needs immediate attention… or not. Look at the change and how it will impact everything, from the business need to the quality of the product to the stakeholders and the organization. If the change is certain and needs to be addressed, then prioritize this change with whatever others you’re dealing with.
How is the Triple Constraint affected?
The good old triple constraint of scope, cost and schedule has almost become a cliche in business circles, but that doesn’t take away from its importance when strategizing. You need to look over each of these points and determine the impact of the change on them. For scope, you can use a work breakdown structure. Cost was already looked at from a systemic view, but now get closer and determine the specifics. And with schedule, see how the change impacts your deadlines. The more you know, the better you can manage the change.
What are your dependencies?
Every part of your project is related to another part, and what impacts one aspect is going to have a ripple effect throughout the entire project. Therefore, you have to figure out what are the other tasks which are going to suffer the brunt force of the change you are charting. This will give you insight into which tasks you need to get out of the way of this change by completing them before the change has a chance to effect it. But you also must determine the dependencies outside of the insular project and see if there are impacts to the market and other outside systems.
What are the risks?
Find the risks associated with the change. What are they going to do qualitatively and quantitatively to the various parts of your project? Are these changes going to threaten your project? You have to be diligent with any and all changes and how they impact risk, because even a small change can make for a high degree of risk to your project.
Is there an impact on your existing PM process and systems?
The short answer to this is: yes. You have to see what procedures are getting knocked off track, whether that’s your risk management, communications or quality plan, and then figure out a way to get them back in place to align with the goals, budget and timeline of your project. Part of this repair, of course, is determining the cost involved.
Did you remember to document everything?
You better. Paperwork may be the bane of your existence, but it’s important that you document all the findings you made when asking yourself the above questions regarding the change in your project. That detailed report is going to have to be approved by the change control board (if you have one) or other key decision makers, so you want them to have all the data you collected to make your decision, and hopefully in turn theirs. Even if they approve the change, there’s more documentation required.
If you ask yourself these seven questions when change arises, then you direct the change, not the other way around.
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