Here's the simple definition of change...To make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone. Most of us don't handle change all that well. In our personal lives or our professional lives. I used to be one of the least flexible people you’d ever meet. I liked taking the same vacations because everything was familiar. Boring. But confidence and a willingness to try new things changed that for me.
Are you good at handling change? Do you readily accept and embrace change? Do you run away from change? Are you somewhere in between those two ends of the spectrum concerning change? How you handle change may say a lot about you and your type of leadership…and it even may say a lot about your ability to lead projects effectively – or at least how much conscious effort you’re going to have to put into each and every turn and bump in the road.
The way I see it, the project manager must always be open to change. Certainly, they must be stubborn leaders…steadfast in the decisions they make, stern in the delegation of tasks and enforcement of deadlines, and not afraid to call the customer out if they aren’t delivering information, task progress, or decisions on their end. Indeed, the project manager must be bold in all aspects, but change is inevitable and they must be open to change.
Customers almost always change requirements and priorities sometime during the project. Customers probably present the most frustrating changes. What they want changes. What they need changes. Their organization changes and suddenly you’re working with a new sponsor or your project takes on a higher or lower priority. So many customer changes can affect you and your project. Be prepared and try not to pull your hair out.
Your project resources may requiring changing during an engagement. This won’t happen on every project, but it can happen on any project. It can be frustrating when it happens on the customer side. And it can cause significant project impact when it happens on the delivery side of the project – usually because some other project absolutely had to have the specific individual resource that was on your team. Stay calm, make appropriate plans to strategically onboard new project team members when necessary and always do your best to present it in a positive light to your project customer. The last thing you want to do is cause the customer to be overly concerned about any project resource changes that must be made.
Issues and risks will come up. Remember those risks you were dutifully planning for early on in the project? A few of those will likely actually come to light…and you’ll need to react to them to either avoid their impact or to mitigate their impact. The key is to be ready, have a plan in place, and make sure that you did that early risk and issue planning. It’s actually important that it does happen so that you can always be proactive and remain in control.
Organizational changes can and do affect the projects that we manage. Lastly, things will happen in our own organizations that will affect our projects from time to time. Priorities may change, personnel may change (one of our resources might be let go or might leave for another opportunity at another organization)…it’s impossible to predict. And it’s really impossible to prepare for these types of changes. They key is to know they can happen and to not let them overwhelm you and cause you to react negatively and possibly take any actions that may be detrimental to the health of your project or projects.
Summary / call for input
Most changes that we have to manage as project leaders throughout the life cycle of our projects have nothing to do with anything we initiated...we just have to jump on the bull and hope to steer it down the street successfully. No project goes through the cycle without experiencing some change...we just need to be ready for it and prepared to handle it calmly and responsibly...with the help of our team and stakeholders.
How about our readers? What other areas of change affect projects? Do you have certain strategies of dealing with project change that you can share?