Benchmark Business Group

Adjusting Your Sails

August 22, 2017

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Our Thoughts: The ability to adapt to change within a project is vital to success. Regardless of how great your project plan is there will always be some factors that you cannot control. The good news is that you can always control your reaction to those factors. The sample mindset document we provided earlier addressed the need for a project manager to adapt a flexible point of view, but to truly be ready for change, you must also think about the structure of change.
If change is just allowed to happen in a project without structure there will be chaos. Change rarely impacts just one area of a project, but instead has a ripple effect. Something that seems small and even insignificant can have a devastating impact to your project. When projects are moving along it's tempting to go with the flow and just adjust the sails to the change of the wind. The quote is a bit misleading, because what it doesn't disclose is the experience, knowledge, and education a sailor needs to have in order to adjust the sails. Adjusting the sails may become second nature to a sailor, but it doesn't start that way.

In project management, changes can be more difficult. You won't always have the depth of experience or knowledge that an expert sailor has to adjust the sails. This is why having structure around change is vital. How change needs to be handled should always, without exception, be defined in the guidelines of your project plan.

The guidelines should clearly spell out:
  • When change is communicated: as soon as it happens, within a week
  • How it is communicated: email, schedule a meeting, in a project update 
  • Who needs to know when a change occurs: by position
Examples of guidelines around change:
  • Any changes that mean the Business Requirements, Timeline, Budget, or Milestones will not be met should be immediately reported to your manager as soon as they are identified via email. The project manager should schedule a follow up meeting within 1 business day if no other scheduled meeting is available to discuss these changes.
  • Any other changes should be captured in the change log and a weekly email recapping the change log should be sent to (insert positions).
  • Communication regarding changes should include:
    • What the change is
    • What else does the change impact:
      • Business Requirements
      • Milestones
      • Resources
      • Timeline
      • Budget
    • Who else is impacted by the change:
      • Business
      • Departments
      • Customers
      • Vendors
      • Employees
    • Are there any alternatives to the change
    • Any negative issues with making the change
In addition to how change is handled, every change should be documented in the project plan's change log. This ensures that anyone involved in the project has the right information and over time the change log allows you to see how the project progressed over time. The knowledge and experience that is documented in the change log will allow you to become an expert sailor and adjusting those sails will be much easier in the future.
Question: How is change structured in your projects?


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