How to manage project changes and why is it important?

This is part 1 of a 4-part series on project change management. This topic is a chapter in our upcoming book, Redefining the Basics of Project Management, scheduled for second quarter 2014.

Project Change Management

Introduction to Project Change Management

Project change management is integrated with project control and the four control reference points apply to change management, and are equally important.

The Four Control Reference Points

Before we continue with the discussion on project change management, let us visualize our concept of project control and the four control reference points.

Project Control and Change Management: The Four Control Reference Points

Project Control and Change Management: The Four Control Reference Points

Explaining the above image is the topic of another post, for now we zoom in on the need for four control reference points; which we control against these references (baselines).

There are numerous resources and references on project control and project change management. Therefore, we will continue with the practice of referring the readers to research these topics for more in depth coverage, in order for us to maintain the focus on these topics as they related to The Customizable and Adaptable Methodology for Managing Projects™.

Project Control versus Project Change Management

A quick point to differentiate between project control and project change management, project control is about variations and deviations from the plan due to performance related matters, internal or external, individually or organizationally caused. On the other hand, project change management is a conscious decision to change the plan.

Why Change Management Is Important

For many reasons, primarily, changes on projects are disruptive and are leading causes of threats on projects.

Studies by the Construction Industry Institute (CII)[1] for capital-intensive projects, industrial and engineering/construction projects, find that poor change management results in poor productivity, and in turn over budget and behind schedule performance. On the other hand, effective change management can lead to better than plan performance.

Another factor, if changes are not properly managed, via proper identification, documentation, analysis, before decision-making and implementation that would be a form of ineffective project governance. This is a critical factor in organizations without proper project management system and absence of proper accountability.

Some of the studies by CII highlight numerous other issues and threats from project changes, these include:

  • Impact to engineering and construction productivity due to high level of changes,
  • Impact to project performance due to changes,
  • Impact due to hidden changes[2],
  • Organizations fail to identify the true impact of changes, and
  • There is a cumulative impact of changes, which the team cannot not readily evaluate!

All of these are factors that confirm the need for proper change management, especially in the ‘foggy zone’, from idea to project detailed plan[3].

The remainder of this chapter focuses on three areas of attention in relation to project change, these are:

  1. The hidden changes, these are changes that do not go through the project change management system, assuming there is one.
  2. ‘Project change management in the fog’, is a term we use to refer to the part of the project life span where control is mostly qualitative due to the ambiguity of the scope definition.
  3. Project change management during implementation, which is most common in traditional project management.
Until next time …
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[2] Refer to Scope Creep Section, next!

[3] Refer to the Change Management in the Fog section