Change Management

Change Control does good things for you and your projects.  It documents who requested the each change, what the cost and benefit was and who approved/disapproved the change. So if you wind up finishing late and over budget, you have documentation of what happened. Most important It also let’s you manage your users, clients and stakeholders and build good relationships while controlling project scope.

Stopping Scope Creep

A manager walks into your cube and says, “You need to add Chinese classes to the project a requirement that you missed when you were building your plan.”

You let the acqusation slide and say, “Oh what did we miss in our plan and the requirements list you signed?”

“Manderin language training for our phone reps, the number of Chinese customers is skyrocketing.  I need you to squeeze it in.”

“Do you need all the reps to learn Manderin? You asked, scribbling on the change request form.”

“No, Just 20 of them.”

“How long a class do you require? I need that for this change request

The sales manager jerked his head up “5 days. But stop writing. This is your change.”

You shook you head, “You’re the one requesting a change that will increase both cost and duration. Not me.”

The sales manager pleaded, “I just want you to squeeze it in right before the reps go live with the new system, Not make a big deal of it.”

You answered, “I can’t just add it without the sponsor’s sign-off, we need to go through  change control.”

“I know the VP will approve it, we discussed it over lunch.  This is a no brainer.”

“Good,   looked at the chang order.  The university will give us a student trainer but for 5 days. its $5,000 which includes materials. Then once he signs this $5000 increase in cost and a 5-day delay in the finish date, we will be good to go.”

What’s important here is:

  • The PM is not evaluating the benefits of the change, he is just quantifying the impact on schedule and cost.
  • He used the stockholders cost and time estimates
  • No president was established about making changes without an approved change request
  • No Conflict with the stakeholder.  PM was just following procedure.

Now let’s look at a project with no change control

No Change Control Process

Let’s consider what can happened if you don’t have a Change Control Process.  A stakeholder boss asks you to squeeze in a requirement.  On the surface, the requirement looks simple and should not take much time.  You do not want to disappoint your boss, so you agree.  You decide to have Janet work on this since she has time before her next task starts.  Janet explains that she is working on another project during her slack time between tasks on your project.  She could not possibly work on this new requirement.  Gosh, that is right. The project team is only being loaned to you. You don’t “own” all their time.

Well maybe Bob could slip this into his schedule. Bob is amenable.  He can start work on the change and try to complete it in the time that will allow you to stay on schedule.  One week later, the day before the due date, Bob comes to you and says he’s sorry but he cannot finish the task.  His manager is pulling him back because Bob has used all the hours his boss agreed to for this project.  

Now you must find someone to finish Bob’s task by tomorrow.  What are you going to do?  The schedule is slipping since Bob is not available to work on the task.  Your brain starts rushing, thinking about who could fill-in for Bob.  Then your thoughts turn to dread.  How are you going to explain the slip to the sponsor?  You accepted the change from your boss without going through the Change Control Process.  Where are you going to get the additional resource to finish Bob’s work without disrupting something else?  What following work is affected by slipping Bob’s task? 

Change Control Process

You know that any change comes with a cost or an effect on the project baseline. To support an additional requirement, a Change Control Processcompany manager or stakeholder must follow the Change Control Process or they must create another project.  Changes and additional requirements add to some aspect of a project; the time, cost, quality, resources, scope, or risks.  If the additional requirement can be handled on a non-critical path task, it may be possible to support the manager’s or stakeholder’s request. Nevertheless, you should follow your Change Control Process and ask the manager to help you complete the appropriate change request form.  You will review the change with the team to assess the effect on the current schedule and other aspects of the project.  The change request and the estimated impact will be presented to the project sponsor for their consideration.  The project sponsor will make the determination if the change is important enough to modify the current, approved project plan and baseline.

Having and following an established project plan and Change Control Process coordinates everyone’s work to achieve successful project completion.  Changes are often necessary and change requires the stakeholders, project manager and the team to follow the Change Control Process to successfully continue the project work and meet the objective.

Author: Dick Billows, PMP

Dick has more than 25 years of project and program management experience throughout the US and overseas. Dick was a partner in the 4th largest professional firm and a VP in a Fortune 200 company. He trained and developed 100's of project managers using his methodology. Dick is the author of 14 books, over 300 articles and director/producer of 90 short project management training videos. He and a team of 25 project managers work with client companies & students across the US and in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They have assisted over 300 organizations in improving their project performance. Books by Dick Billows, PMP are on