You Need to Change as a PMP Project Manager!

Seasons imageChange is all around us. The seasons change, children change, and our relationships change. We change jobs, clothes and moods. Our friends as well as our likes and dislikes all change over time. We’re used to dealing with change every day of our lives. Why is it then that when it comes to our projects we may be surprised, even irritated, when change creeps into our projects?

One reason is that project managers typically do not like change. We like putting things in nice, orderly boxes and categories (ever heard of a WBS?). We like to plan things from beginning to end and come in each day knowing what is next on our list of things to get done. We like it when everything falls into place and each step we take is a solid step moving forward not sideways, or (gasp)…backwards.

Guess what? We need to accept and even embrace change to remain viable as a PMP Project Manager. Below are some causes of change and what we can do to make the best of the situation when change occurs on our projects.

Some Reasons for Change

The reasons for change are endless. Most changes can fall into the following categories:

There’s always a Better Way

Your project kicks off with the most recent understanding of the technologies and tools available to you and your team at that time. Months may pass when it is realized that there is a different tool or new technology that may, in the long run, make the deliverable of the project more sustainable or scalable. The downside is that in the short-term this introduces change to your project.

Missed Requirements

Try as we might, it is next to impossible to capture every single requirement that is necessary for a successful implementation of our project. A team of business analysts may be assigned to take on this task. However, the expression “you don’t know what you don’t know” has a tendency to rear its ugly head at some point in the lifecycle of a project. It may be that a system the project integrates with may have been overlooked or a smaller, yet important, stakeholder’s requirements were missed. Either scenario introduces change into the equation.

Market Pressure

You may feel you have plenty of time to complete the project you have been assigned in the right way. Then your Sales team comes back from the most recent Trade Show and informs everyone that your competitors are on your heels and you need to get to market in half the time you had originally expected. The result? You guessed it…change.

How to Accept and Embrace Change

You may think that Change is something you may always have a hard time to accept, let alone embrace. You will find that by following the suggestions below you can separate yourself from other project managers and make a name for yourself of someone who can absorb and execute on changes introduced to your project.

Accept It

Go into every project with your eyes wide open that change is going to occur. You know that the end of the project will be somewhat, to very different, than how it was planned for at the beginning. That’s OK. Think of your project in financial terms. The beginning of your project is like a Balance Sheet at the beginning of one period. The end of your project is like that same Balance Sheet at the end of the period. If there is any activity at all during this period these two Balance Sheets will be different. You are able to bridge these changes by means of the Income Statement. Carefully documented change requests and logs can serve as your project Income Statement that can bridge the gap between how the project originally was planned for at the beginning and how it ultimately ended up.

Plan for It

You can’t say you know that change will occur in your projects and then do nothing to accommodate these changes. Have a contingency plan in place (time, resources, and cost) that can absorb part of, if not all, of the changes that will occur. Have a Project Change Control Template ready to go, understand what would be considered billable vs. non-billable up-front and have procedures in place with relevant stakeholders to review and approve/reject changes that may arise.

Roll with It

Did you know that high rise buildings are designed with enough flexibility to sway up to a couple of feet in each direction to prevent them from breaking apart and crumbling in high winds and bad weather? This flexibility allows them to sway in the breeze while maintaining the integrity of their structure and safeguarding the safety of its occupants. You need to do the same things as a PMP Project Manager. Maintaining a certain amount of flexibility will allow you and your team to sway with the changes that may come your way while at the same time keeping the entire project intact. (see the right sidebar for resources that can help you make it through Change).

We all need to face the fact that change is inevitable. Change comes from diverse sources and is incessant. It is the highly skilled project manager that accepts and even embraces this change by accepting the fact that change will occur, plans for it and ultimately has the flexibility to absorb this change and keep the project intact.


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