Project Toolkit

In Times of Change

Whether you’re implementing an enterprise-wide change or responding to a shift in scope, rock-solid change management is a project management must. We asked practitioners : What’s your top rule for dealing with change ?


Understand the impact

“The main rule for addressing changes is to be clear about their scope and the reasons behind them. Both the project team and project sponsor must agree on the scope of the changes prior to their implementation. One of the most common mistakes is to implement a change before the impacts on the tripe constraint are clear to everyone involved. No one can know the real effect of a change before it has been analysed and estimated. Only after careful consideration of a change’s impact can the sponsor and stakeholders understand possible outcomes. The project team, ideally the same one responsible for implementing the change, must focus on the project scope baseline and analyse any impact of any changes.”

– Alejandro Aramburu, PMP, project management office manager, multinational IT services provider NEC Argentina S.A. San Luis, Argentina


Get to the Root Cause

“Frequently, people are just told to make a change, and they don’t see the reasoning behind it and the long term benefits. Take a deep breath, understand the “why” of the change and move forward. At first, the change can seem worse than it really turns out to be.

My team has a few mechanisms for dealing with change. We discuss a lot how we’re reacting. We have safe places where we can go and rant about the change, and no one hears or sees us. Then we walk out the door ready to face it head-on. So we can explain it better to others, we learn to be investigators of the change – understanding why and what’s in it for us.”

– Shelly Lawrence, PMP, senior project manager, PMI Global Executive Council member Wells Fargo, West Des Moines, Iowa, USA


Share the News, Shift the Plan

“Communicate the change to all stakeholders as soon as it is known. No one likes surprises and everyone appreciates time to react. While there are many steps in responding to change effectively, without effective communication, the rest tend to fail.

Take the time to complete the re-planning too. Often changes are viewed as requiring less work to plan, but the reality is the opposite. Changes need to be translated into revised scope documents, new requirements, restructured activities, schedules and budgets.”

– John R. Becker, PMP, projects manager, ABCO Subsea, Houston, Texas, USA


Use the Five Ps

“I would suggest the five Ps to project managers struggling with change :

1. Be patient. Generally, things don’t happen overnight. It may take some time before any desired or reasonable outcome is reached.

2. Be persistent. Keep on chipping away at the issues. The solution you’re seeking may be just around the corner.

3. Be practical. Build up your support group. Create a structure that provides stability and support while you’re in the process of transitioning.

4. Be positive. Expect ups and downs. A sense of optimism will help equalise the peaks and valleys and will help keep you focussed and committed.

5. Have a purpose. Have a mission, a vision and guiding principles that are vital to you and give meaning to your work life.”

– Norval Oswald, PMP, director, IT strategy and portfolio management, Sears Canada Inc, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Keeping Score

The project’s closed, but while it may have gone according to plan, how do you know it was a win ? We asked practioner : What’s the best metric you use to measure project success ?

Start with the Basics

“I consider these basic parameters :

1. The bare minimum : Is the project delivered on time and budget and within scope ? Does it meet the requirements ?

2. The defect rate: The number of defects over the backlog items finished in a project. Usually it is a percentage – the lower, the better. The perfect scenario would be no defect in the product delivered.

3. The business value : Is this a system that can be scaled to other business models ? Has the system configuration time been reduced ? Are any existing issues resolved ? Are more customers more satisfied than before ?

4. Financial benefits : Does this project lead to an increase in revenue, profit margin, market share and popularity ?

For example, for a software development project, we measured the project in terms of budget, requirements, due date and defect rate. Our goal was to reduce the system configuration time by at least 50 percent. When we recorded the configuration time between the old system and the new system, we found that the time for the new one had been shortened seven times from the old system. That meant one implementation team could handle many more clients than before, and we saw that as a successful project – the creation of efficiency.”

– Weifang Leda Wu, [PMI-ACP, PMP, IT project manager/Scrum master at Empyrean Benefit Solutions, Houston, Texas, USA


Mission Critical

Project practitioners tend to turn to schedule crashing as a last-ditch effort to meet a hard deadline. But done right, schedule crashing can be a project plus.  We asked practitioners :

When do you decide to crash a schedule and what are your best tips ?

Plan for Plan B

“In government, the political environment and public stakeholders play a major role in decisions to crash a schedule. When that needs to happen, the first thing we look at is the critical path activities that will yield the biggest compression benefits and then determine which can be done with minimal-to-no-impact to the project budget.

Depending o n project complexity and requirements, it can be a good idea to do up-front contingency planning – develop a list of critical path activities and tasks that could be outsourced quickly, or make note where resources are more abundant. As you build the project schedule in the initiation phase, identify those “crash” opportunities, though you may or may not choose to deploy these.”

– Candice Leonard, strategic systems and section, Oregon Department of Transportation, Salem, Oregon, USA


Communicate the Crash

“I decided to crash the schedule when part of the project will jeopardise a main step in the schedule. For example, in a commissioning phase, if four or five different companies are scheduled to work within the same time frame and if a component is missing, it will cost more money to reorganise this phase. So, the cost of expediting one component will be lower than the cost of jeopardizing the milestone.

The biggest challenge to successful crashing is properly communicating its importance. That means talking to team members, for whom the crash is a new priority over regular tasks, the design leader and the project purchaser, as well as any suppliers involved.

I also check that every component will be ready on time and refocus our expectations if necessary. For example, I work with the design leader to make sure that all the parts are compatible. If we need to, we might ask the supplier to manufacture components very quickly, omitting the usual painting, which can be done later.”

– Jerome Huet, PMP, project manager, engineering procurement and construction, head of project managers group, Sandvik Construction, Paris, France