Project Managers can proactively manage change on their projects by implementing these five strategies.
1. Lay the foundation for change management in the contract agreement
The contract agreement is a risk sharing document. Negotiate risk sharing arrangements for unexpected site conditions, weather events, and any other events beyond the control of the contractor (commonly referred to as “force majeure”).
Include a section in the contract that defines the change request process. This process should describe the steps and responsible parties for preparing, submitting, and approving a change request. Defining the process up front minimizes confusion and conflict when a change request is warranted.
Prepare a detailed statement of work to accompany the contract. The detailed statement of work should clearly define the tasks to be performed by the contractor and the information or assistance that will be provided by the customer. In addition, the statement of work should identify what work is excluded from the statement of work. The more clarity provided in the statement of work, the less disagreement on the contractor responsibilities.
2. Prepare a Change Management Plan
A Change Management Plan describes how change requests are managed throughout the project including submitting requests for formal approval by the customer and incorporating approved changes into the project management plan. The change management plan translates the contract change request process into a detailed action plan with assigned responsibilities for the project team. Once a change is approved the change management plan describes the steps for incorporating changes to requirements, scope, schedule, budget, etc. into the project management plan.
Review the statement of work and change management plan with the project team to raise awareness about potential sources of change and the plan for managing change. Stakeholders will interact with multiple project team members. In these interactions, stakeholder will oftentimes introduce new requirements. Project team members need to be alert to these requests and communicate them to the project manager for handling in accordance with the agreed to change request process.
3. Communicate routinely with customers
Schedule a routine meeting with customers to discuss project progress and potential sources of change. It is important to give customers advanced notice of potential sources of change before preparing a change request. Alerting a customer that a new requirement introduced by a stakeholder is grounds for a change, could prompt the customer to invalidate the new requirement to avoid an unnecessary change. Alternatively, the customer may elect to modify an existing requirement to minimize the impact of an unexpected site condition or weather event.
Document communications with customers in meeting summaries that are shared with customers. The meeting summary captures the description of the potential sources of change as well as the agreed upon actions to address the potential sources of change. These meeting summaries provide a resource for preparing change requests and minimize disagreement about what was discussed and when.
4. Document changes
Maintain a change log to track status of changes and prepare detailed change sheets to document the change. The change log would include the following:
When the change was requested or occurred
Source of the change (new stakeholder requirement or change in conditions)
Brief description of the change
Priority for the change
How the change will be addressed (e.g., change request, invalidate new requirement, etc.)
The change sheet includes a more detailed description of the change, which could be augmented by photo documentation. In addition, the change sheet would include records of measurements taken to quantify the change. For example, an extreme weather event may include rainfall gauge measurements.
5. Prepare and submit timely change requests
Draft and submit change requests within 24 to 48 hours of a customer agreeing that an identified change event warrants a change request. The sooner a change request is submitted, reviewed by the customer, and negotiated, the sooner the change can be incorporated in the project management plan and implemented. This will help mitigate budget and schedule impacts of changes.
It is preferable to submit multiple change requests on a timely basis, rather than waiting to bundle change requests into larger submittals that are submitted weeks after the change events. Standardizing the change request process in the change management plan will reduce the administrative burden of processing change requests. Communicating routinely with customers about potential sources of change will engage the customer in the change management process and will expedite review and approval of justifiable change requests.
Project Managers who follow these five strategies for managing change will maximize the likelihood that customers will approve change requests in a timely manner.