Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Planning for project changes, part of Project Management Foundations: Change.
When he was a general, President Dwight Eisenhower once said, "I've always found that "plans are useless. But planning is indispensable." When you manage project changes, you have to separate the planning from the plan. Planning is important. It's with good planning that you start to think about how your project will manage changes. The plan itself is short lived. It's usually quickly outdated. As a project manager, focus on how you can improve your planning and not only on how you can improve the plan.
With a good planning process, you'll be better equipped to handle changes. It might be tempting to just focus on the plan. The plan is something you can touch, see, and feel. It's something you can color code, bind, and present with a vinyl cover. It feels like something you can control. In comparison, planning is an endless treadmill of meetings, consensus building, and reshuffling. But trying to create the perfect plan is like shoveling snow in a snow storm. It's an exhausting journey where you never cross the finish line. It might end up consuming all of your time as you endlessly edit, connect, and re-communicate.
When I was a project manager for a large retailer, we spent an hour every morning updating the plan. There were 20 managers in the room and a half a dozen on video and audio conference. The plan just became another consensus building document. How much do you think the salaries of 30 project managers costs per hour? With this many project managers, how difficult do you think it was to apply changes? The plan itself was this huge undertaking and no one was trying to improve the planning process. The focus was on the plan.
It was concrete and so it was very difficult to apply real time improvements or changes. A good way to focus on planning and not the plan is to find the part of your plan which is flexible. The plan should be a living document. It should have areas that change and areas that do not. You need to have a good understanding of where the changes will occur. Think about our mobile application. There are parts of the project you can change. You might be able to increase the schedule for a higher quality product. Maybe you can increase the budget if you later decide to add another platform.
There are also parts that cannot change. You wouldn't want to change from a mobile application to a desktop application and you wouldn't want to deliver in half the time or half the cost. Spend time at the beginning imagining what can change and what cannot change. In traditional project management, this is called change management planning. Then you'll create a planning process that easily accepts changes, but remains solid and clear. So start from day one figuring out how to integrate these changes.
If it's a larger plan it might have a specific change control section that will outline how to deal with changes. If you have a smaller project, just outline a process and ways to improve the process. If you are a rigid planner, you might feel like creating a flexible plan is like giving your stakeholder an IOU. But with a flexible plan you're really doing much more than creating a document. You're creating a foundation for your project, a base line set of deliverables and structures that cannot change. Then you're creating a fluid part that allows for creativity, new lessons, and enhancements.
Along the way, learn how to effectively manage your project for change requests and deal with common obstacles. Also see how to find the balance between too much and too little change—either can be threat to your project.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- What are project changes?
- Planning for changes
- Accepting or rejecting a change
- Understanding the risks
- Learning from your changes<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.