Helpful Strategies for Controlling Change to Your Projects
By Jen Emswiler | Harkcon’s Program Control Analyst
How do you control changes to your projects? When there are approved changes within the scope of your project, what are you doing to ensure that these changes are controlled? Rory Burke states, “The project manager must be able to develop a fully integrated information and control system to plan, instruct, monitor and control large amounts of data, quickly and accurately to facilitate the problem-solving and decision-making process.” As project managers we typically have a lot on our plates and are responsible for controlling our projects in regards to the schedule, budget, risk, quality and performance. We understand that projects can experience change at any phase due to internal or external factors and that changes may impact schedules, costs, and resource allocation.
In order to effectively manage project changes we need to understand how to control change while reducing risk and unnecessary disruption to the project. This can be challenging, to say the least, but here are several strategies that can assist project managers in successfully controlling change to your projects.
Determining who is doing what on the project is critical in ensuring that the changes are being implemented and monitored, as well as being executed on time, within budget and within scope. This may sound like common sense, but often times in the wake of change, we may overlook the need to delegate and clearly communicate with our team about who is responsible for what changes and how they must oversee them. This also aids in resource allocation.
Coordinating and leading your team will allow for smoother transition or implementation of any change. Project managers have the responsibility of ensuring the team understands the change, the milestones and goals impacted by the change and the new way ahead. This is critical to maintaining the new baseline, so that you don’t slip back to older processes and previous schedules.
Communicating is the most important element in controlling change. Communication between you and your team, between teammates, with your client, sponsor as well as your stakeholders. Project managers must strive to make assessments of changes and inform stakeholders how the change could affect the project outcome. All parties involved must have a clear communication system in place to ensure that the project scope, milestones and deliverables are clearly understood, especially when a change occurs. Using a Stakeholder Management Plan and Communication Plan at the very start of your project will greatly aid you in managing your project effectively.
Documenting updates to processes, policies, and most importantly the project management plan. Louis Fried says, “If it is not documented, it doesn’t exist … As long information is retained in someone’s head, it is vulnerable to loss.” Documenting and distributing pertinent information to key stakeholders, sponsors, and teammates is absolutely necessary. If a change is approved and made, it must be documented and shared. In addition, documenting lessons learned throughout the project are helpful to the current project, as well as future projects.
Putting tools and procedures in place to make sure the change is permanent. Use checklists, monthly review meetings, and a change review system to capture the review and assessment of changes. It is incredibly useful to develop a change management plan at the beginning of your project to ensure successful integration of project changes.
Using control charts, Gantt charts, Pareto Analysis and resource schedules as visual tools are helpful in monitoring project changes. Louis Fried also states, “You can’t keep it all in your head. Project control tools are an absolute necessity for the control of large projects.” In order to monitor and control projects, the use of multiple tools is incredibly helpful. It’s not only helpful to you as project manager, but it is helpful to your team and Stakeholders. Using visual tools to show how you are making decisions, how the project is tracking, how changes will impact the project are very powerful. They allow for Stakeholders to see the impact and visually understand the status of a project.
All in all, understanding changes to your projects and knowing strategies for how to quickly and effectively implement a change to your project without increasing risk and keeping all of your teammates and stakeholders informed is critical to project success. When you begin any project be sure to include processes and management plans that will aid project changes to be implemented and integrated into your project with ease.
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