Change is nothing to be afraid of; in fact if it wasn’t for change, there wouldn’t be a need for project management.  Isn’t that what we do as project managers; manage change?  Yet often I have noticed that some don’t understand what they should do when change occurs in their project.  I believe the reason for this fear of change is because they react to change rather than plan for change.

The Doberman

A few years ago I was helping my son with his paper route.  I was driving him around the route because this one Sunday’s edition happened to be quite large due to the number of advertisements.  I remember watching him approach one particular door, but before delivering the paper, he made an abrupt turn and raced back to the car.  I saw fear in his face as he approached me and I asked him why he didn’t deliver the paper.  He informed me that there was a ferocious Doberman at the house and he was not going to deliver the paper.  Before I knew it, Dad was volunteered to deliver the paper.  As I approached the door, I discovered that the ferocious canine was indeed just a little Dachshund, a Weiner dog.

Four Keys to Managing Change

Just as my son was afraid of something he wasn’t expecting, we can be afraid of change if we are not prepared to manage that change.  Here are four key things to remember, which if followed will help us be prepared when change happens.

1.  Make sure there is a change management process in place.

Either the organization or the project should have a well defined change management process implemented so you will know what to do when change occurs.  The project manager needs to be able to understand, who approves changes, what steps must be followed to get that approval, and what mechanisms are required.

2.  Have a solid scope, budget and schedule defined.

This is critical because change can occur to any three of these constraints.  A shareholder can request additional scope be added to the project.  Management might decide to decrease the budget due to funding constraints.  The market might dictate the project needs to be delivered earlier than planned.  When these three constraints are well defined, you will have a baseline in which to measure the change.

3.  Analyze the impact to the project.

The project team, lead by the project manager, should analyze the impact of the change to the defined scope, budget and/or schedule.  This impact will be documented and presented to the decision makers of the project.

4.  Insist on a decision prior to acting on the change request.

Based on the documented impact and following the change management process, get a decision for approval or rejection of the change request.  Don’t make the mistake of acting on a change request prior to obtaining an approval from the decision makers.

As you follow these key recommendations, you will be prepared when change requests hit your project…and you won’t be afraid.

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