Changes are an inevitable part of life and also of project management. This is almost the only thing you can be sure of. With the right methods, project managers can manage and control change.
“There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus
Yet, people don’t like change. An example: every time Facebook or Twitter or any other web site changes their user interface, there is a huge outcry of protest against it. No exception. People like the familiar and known because it is safe and there are no surprises. Many forget that change is not automatically something negative. On the contrary, without change there would be no progress. Which is why you should embrace change and change management.
Definition of Change Management
Change is usually defined as getting from a current state to a future state. The purpose of change management is to make sure that this change happens in an orderly way and its implementation is successful. It also verifies that the change is beneficial to the objectives of a project. It is important to remember that change does not happen in a bubble, but it affects every department and person involved in a project.
Change Management in Project Management
At one point or another a project manager will have to make changes to the project. Which means that they will have to make a change to one or more of the triple constraints. The reasons could be because of internal requirements, but also because of external sources. A lack of change management can in extreme cases cause projects to fail because it failed to adapt to changing conditions, for example.
It is important to have a structured approach to identify and control changes to the original project plan. In the best case scenario, your plan is so good that you won’t have to change it. But as mentioned above, changes often occur in the process of a project.
Change Management Process
1. Change Request
Changes need to approved, therefore someone has to formally request them. Often customers will request changes to the previously agreed on project plan. Thus, they will usually cover any additional costs that might occur because of a change. Sometimes a change is also needed if the project does not meet all requirements yet, e.g. the quality of deliverables is not up to par.
2. Identify and Prioritize
The first step is to identify whether change is really necessary and if so, what kind of change (organizational, process, system etc.). A change list or register helps to keep an overview. After that is done, you should sort the change in order of importance, i.e. prioritize it. You also need to identify which tasks you have to do to bring about the change.
3. Assess and Communicate
Assess what impact the change will make on all aspects of your project (time, cost, scope, risks etc.) and who will be affected by it. The human aspect is the most important one in change management because even the best laid out plan and smoothly executed change will fail if the people who are directly affected by this change reject it. For example, you could buy a great software, but if your team refuses to use it, it was for nothing. Which is why you need to communicate with your team and all those affected to make sure they all understand why the change is important. This will help get them behind your change plan. Also make sure that any change is the best possible option or whether there isn’t a better alternative.
4. Write a Plan
The next step in the process is creating a change plan. This plan should cover all aspects of the change that have been identified in points 2 and 3. The plan should include the problem and how to deal with it, the steps your team has to take to achieve this change, who is involved and will be affected by it, how much time and budget you need.
5. Implement and Review
Now it is time to implement your change plan. You also need a system to measure the change, i.e. if it has fulfilled its purpose. It is also important during the implementation to regularly verify that the change process is going according to plan and has been successfully implemented.
Read about other aspects of project management:
The Importance of Time Management (Aspects of Project Management Part 1)