Manage Common Changes

Managing through change requires special communications skills from team leaders.

Each new circumstance in the business environment brings with it a change in how projects are managed. Here are a few tips from Cheetah Learning’s Accelerated Project Management system to help managers handle common changes in their companies.

Resource Change: Defining the Constraints.Resource constraints can include the spending limit that is placed on the project team, the number of people who can work on the project, the type of equipment available for their use and the deadlines of the project. Managing changes in resources also includes acknowledging new realities for team members—from multitasking to taking on new roles or doing more with less.

Recalibrating a project or a department in the face of changing resources can be seen as a chicken and egg question: Which comes first? By defining the constraints up front, the project team has a better idea of how to proceed and what tradeoffs must be made. Just as important, defining the constraints can drive the team to look for alternatives and solutions to resource scarcity to present to senior management, or to present another solution entirely. It’s better to spend a half a day relaunching the project based on a new project agreement than it is to create a final deliverable that no one wants or to attempt to complete a project with inadequate resources.

Management Support Change: Determining the New Priorities. How have the organization’s priorities for the resources changed? These priorities can be broken down in terms of cost, schedule, quality and the customers’ acceptance criteria. These are essential for the team to know going forward, since the decisions it makes concerning schedules, staffing and budget will be based on the organization’s priorities. The team’s alternatives and solutions to resource scarcity will help present their case to senior management.

Customer Requirements Change: Understanding the Problem. Customer requirements involved the specific features that the customer wants included in the final deliverables. The better the project team understands the customers problems, the less chance there is for changing customer requirements to create project scope creep (slight incremental changes in the project’s scope). In times of change, it is important to prioritize the customers’ requirements of the final deliverable in the event that cost trade offs need to be made. Cost trade offs look at the cost of new requirement or feature of a project’s final deliverable. Prioritizing customer requirements can be as simple as “must have” (5 points), nice to have (3 points), and not that important (1 point). A rule of thumb is to limit the number of customer requirements to no more than seven. Ideally, each team member should vote on each requirement.

Team and Staffing Change: Communicating the New Dynamic. Many projects lose and gain people during the lifetime of the project. It is important that the team spend a half hour together developing new team guidelines and meeting protocols. When any new people join the team it becomes a new team. Redeveloping your guidelines and protocols is done for the same reason it is done initially—to facilitate working relationships, create a procedure to positively interact and prevent destructive conflict.

And now more than ever, keep the communication lines open. Managing through change requires special communications skills from team leaders. If you are managing change, ask yourself: Have I provided people clear instructions on what they need to do? Start people off on the right foot by engaging them from the beginning of change with clear, direct communication. Make sure you take the time to answer the questions with as much information as you can; get their feedback and listen to their concerns. Connect the change to your audience. Understand and explain what it means to them and choose words that will validate people’s feelings.

It’s more true than ever that the only constant is change. The managers who can master change effectively can create and implement project plans that address the new reality and put their careers and their projects on the new road to the same destination—success.