Handling the project change

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
Dwight D Eisenhower

We plan our project out and usually when we first start implementing it we have to deal with a change or a setback. As in life, projects have to deal with constant change. Managing a project it is best to be ready to adapt to changes in the projects we manage.

Course correction

As we move along in our project we will notice that we make be a little or a lot off course. The simple realization is crucially important. We must use our plan and other means to understand where we stand. Discussing with the team and stakeholders the current status and their perspective can be very helpful. Each of us has a different vantage point of the project.

Prepare for change

If you build rapport with your team you begin to earn their trust. One key way is by communicating what you know and helping them understand what is coming. Keeping them in the know helps quiet rumors and misinformation. One suggestion I have heard from leaders in multiple organizations is having an open question and answer time or “coffee with leaders”. This helps you understand what your team is really concerned with. We make assumptions of what we think will be an issue and we are usually wrong.

Manage change

As the change impacts the whole organization it is important to understand its ramifications. You will see ripples of change in the team and the individuals. Involve all of the team in the change so they feel part of the process and invested in its outcome. Express the benefits to the team for the change and build the buy-in for the process. The last part is to understand in training needs of the team to help make sure the change is implemented properly.

Reinforce change

Moving through the change we need to reinforce the change so we don’t lapse back into our old ways. Looking for new ways to apply the change and the learning that results from the change is an important step. Look for ways to integrate the change into all aspects of the daily processes. Hold the team accountable to achieve the desired results of the change. The last step to reinforce change is to celebrate the accomplishments of the team. Even small steps forward need to be recognized.

Personal Aspect

Integrating the team properly is an important aspect of building up for changes. When we have a project we need to prepare the team for change before they have to. Even if it is something small it can help build comradery and the team spirit.

As you work with individuals that make up your team get to know their preferences. You will see certain people who will have more difficulties with change. One member of the team I managed had concerns with small changes. Big changes were really tough as we could imagine. I began trying different ways of framing the changes as they came along. By reminding him of his role as a technical leader I framed change as more of a challenge and he began to see it that way and enjoyed it more.

Technical Aspect

We need to engage our technical professionals as we encounter change and listen to their guidance. Understanding their concerns can go a long way to gaining their trust. We have discussed the personal aspect of change but, the technical aspects are important too and they can overlap.  For instance, if the expertise of your group is lacking in some new skills or training that needs to be addressed.

Technology tends to touch many different areas. One company I worked at started what they thought was a small project. As they dug into the requirements the small technology change required other system upgrades. The small project grew into a major initiative. It is imperative to comprehend the total impact and eliminate any surprises.

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