“Hey, David, remember that contract you just finished negotiating? The one with the complex features and tight timelines? You know, the one you kept pushing us for an update these past couple of weeks? Yeah, that one – we need to make changes to it. The design team included a neat little widget we’d love to add. No big whoop. We’ll send it over to you. Let the dev team know, m’kay? And whoa – has your face always been that red, I mean, you’re still objectively handsome. Just wondering. Cool bud, take it easy.”
In April 2017, I wrote and passed my Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. Fantastic. It was four hours of non-stop heart palpitations, and a gastric adventure I shall never forget. Why? Because strong coffee, orange juice, and terror-sweat seldom mix amicably in the intestinal tract.
One of the process groups covered, was Monitoring and Controlling (e.g. change requests). Studying for all 47 processes (that’s ‘4’, as in 4, and ‘7’ as in 7) and memorizing their inputs, techniques, and outputs was all fun and games, until I dived into the world of change requests. All projects, regardless of how well trained and experienced a project manager may be will inevitably experience a random, unplanned, and out of scope request by someone on the team.
And that’s OK. You’ve got this. Just like the time you were hanging out with friends and family and mom commented on how warm and stuffy the room was due to the number of occupants, then turning to you and adding ‘David?’. Sure you left the room betrayed and hurt, but – as your therapist would assure you years later – it was for the greater good and overall comfort of the other attendees.
There are many methods to control change. It all starts with understanding the business value or need of said change. Context is critical to ensure the team understands the importance of a new function or process change. Document it. Talk/yell about it. Discuss possible conflicts or risks. Finally, submit it for approval – even if the change does not incur a cost (as it may affect, for example, the project schedule).
Learn to say ‘NO’. Not in those words of course (I like to go with: ‘Hey Clarice, that’s an interesting idea, but due to the current constraints and our upcoming deployment, let’s work out the details and requirements, meet with the team and discuss. We may be able to fit this into a future release…”). This will take time and experience to master. I myself began this journey by rushing out of the conference room while panicking hysterically and slashing all four tires of the person who brought the change forward; “Just a tweak, I know it’s a week before launch”. I did ultimately apologize to Sharon. I was a bit out of line, but I did get her that Subway gift card.
Always present the change control process to your team prior to starting a project. I do this during the kick off. There’s a whole section about it on the agenda. Makes everyone in the room really uncomfortable. It’s especially vital for teams that do not engage in iterative project management methodologies (e.g. agile, Scrum, RAD or Freak_Out). Also, explain the consequences for changes submitted particularly during the execution or closing phases of a project. Keep records and documentation of these processes available to all team members and select stakeholders. I find it acts like a filter. “Do I really need to introduce this feature? It won’t fulfill any of the established objectives, and I did just purchase winter tires…let me re-think this before bringing it to David.” Nice one, Geoff. Everyone be like Geoff.
A project manager will need to manage changes during any project. It is a certainty and part of the project management experience. Learn to implement using the processes and tools your organization has available (or create your own, if needed). Clearly communicate the ground rules for change management, and finally, invest your time in the project’s business goals and objectives – not just the functional or technical ones. Results of which will strengthen your relationship with your organization’s business and management teams. It shows you care and appreciate the value of each request. Finally, research the recommended tire pressure (psi), for the top 10 largest tire manufacturers. You’ll need this when determining the required distance between the yourself and what must be done.