Change is one thing you can be nearly 100% guaranteed to occur on any project. No matter how carefully planned, how many people were involved, and how many “deep-dive” meetings were held to uncover all of the requirements…something will have been missed. Or, time will pass and what seemed to work at the inception of the project is no longer relevant and requires an adjustment to the scope, schedule, or quality of your project.
Regardless, change will happen and you will be right in the middle of it. This is something you will need to accept as a Project Manager or you will drive yourself, and others, crazy by thinking otherwise. Below are some of the most common causes of change on a project as well as some suggestions for how to gracefully implement change and ideally increase revenue in the process with or without change management software.
Three Common Causes for Change
#1. Missed Requirements
The most common reason for a project changing would be missed requirements. In today’s fast and furious business environment, there never seems to be enough time to do something right, but there is always enough time to do something over.Someone comes up with a great idea for a project, or a potential client walks in the door with a project they need to be implemented and everyone is ready to start “building” immediately. A couple brief strokes of the dry erase marker on the whiteboard, a high-level flow chart, and a quick conversation with one or two of the project stakeholders and everyone is off to races. Days, weeks, or a month or two may pass and it quickly becomes apparent that these ad hoc planning sessions really didn’t constitute “planning” but rather allowed somebody the ability to “check this off their list” so the fun part of the project could begin.
Take your time up front. Get Business Analysts involved if need be. Everyone will push you to quickly get out of the Planning stage. You have to fight this influence. Reason with them, show them the benefits of planning up-front and how it will ultimately take less time to complete a properly planned project with as many requirements uncovered as opposed to one that is shoddily thrown together.
There’s a saying in construction to “measure twice…cut once”. This same principle applies regardless of what type of project you are managing. Take the time to gather all requirements up front (translation: as many as you possibly can…do can’t just blow through this part) and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money later. Once these missed requirements have been captured in whatever change management software you are using, you are now ready to move forward.
#2. Missed Stakeholders
This is a variation of Missed Requirements, however, a bit more egregious. All requirements have been captured and the project is moving along just fine. Everything is on-schedule and on-budget and you are a happy camper. Then, someone pops their head into your office and wants to know what this project is all about. They just heard about it from one of their vendors (not even someone from your company) and believe it is certain to have an impact on the way they conduct business.What?? You didn’t even know this group existed. They weren’t even contemplated in the planning sessions that were conducted. Now you find out that they have a vested interest in the implementation and outcome of this project! This opens a Pandora’s Box that is hard to close and sure to negatively impact deliverables, schedules, and everyone’s expectations around the project. Not insurmountable, but at the same time, this really introduced substantial bump in the road.
Don’t assume everyone knows about the project and has provided their input. This falls into the category of “you don’t know what you don’t know” and requires extreme due diligence on your part (and especially the business analyst if you are working with one) to make sure all stakeholders are present and accounted for. These changes may take a bit more time to capture in your change management software as it will expand into a whole new set of requirements, but the effort will be worth it.
#3. Misaligned Expectations
Your sales team would never deliberately do a bait-and-switch…but let’s just say what the customer was sold may be a bit different than what can be built. This turns into a tricky conversation that lends itself to its own article but does present you, as the Project Manager, with some challenges.The customer now has some decisions to make.
- Are they going to accept the project as-is even though this may be different than their expectations?&/or
- Will they require customization of the project to meet their needs which will undoubtedly introduce more time and cost to the project?
It will be important to document this change to the project regardless of what decision they make. This realigns everyone’s expectations and many times could be compared to hitting the ‘reset’ button.
Missed requirements, missed stakeholders, and misaligned expectations are all problem areas that are a hotbed for introducing change to your project. Don’t be naive to think change won’t occur. Rather, earnestly monitor these areas where change could occur, track them with your change management software, and do everything you can to eliminate these causes of change early and often.
How to Bridge this Change
Nobody ever thinks that a project will end up the way it started out. The result is always going to be different (either slight or substantial) than what was anticipated. Your job as a Project Manager is to bridge this difference.
One way to look at managing change is comparing two financial balance sheets from two different periods. You can clearly see the numbers change, but you have no idea or concept of how this change occurred from one balance sheet to the next. Then, you introduce the Profit and Loss statement into the equation and you see how income and expenses caused the balance sheet to fluctuate. The P & L statement is what bridges the two Balance Sheets together.
The same applies with changes that occur on a project. Your project will end up different than it started out. That’s OK and should be expected. You just need to bridge the gap by using change management software to document the changes and bridge the gap.