7 Steps to Simpler Change Management Strategies

Planning your strategy for how to manage organizational or operational changes

by Rod Dunne on May 13, 2011

in Creative, Innovation

Is your current change management strategy failing to stop scope-creep on your projects? Or, are you looking for a simple change management strategy that can be easily implemented on new or existing teams?

The simple fact is that a lot of change management training provide complex project change management models and strategies which most teams fail to implement correctly. Your best bet is to keep it simple! The following strategy has a few basic elements which control project change even on large projects.

What Is Change Management?

A change management strategy is a formal procedure whereby alterations to projects are properly administered and controlled. The intention is to constrain the amount of ad-hoc additions to project plans that can occur in the middle of its implementation and can be facilitated using document tracking application software. The strategy uses level-headed discussions and selection of which alterations to project plans are permitted.

On a separate note, organizational change management models are a framework for managing alterations to business processes, operational procedures and the structure of an organization. These areas are usually outside the scope of normal project manager targeted training. However, these are factors which affect the way people work within your company so require careful consideration. This post focuses however on project change management strategy.

The Easiest Change Management Strategy Ever Developed!

If you’ve read up on all the different change management models out there then you’ll realize that there are three key components. These are change request forms, change logs and steering meetings. A simple strategy only needs to identify how these three elements are used to control alterations to your projects. Here are the steps involved:

  1. All change requests must be filled out on a formal change request form. This is submitted to the project manager.
  2. The project manager adds the change request to the change log. This is usually an online database or specialist change management software system. It can however simply be a spreadsheet.
  3. The project manager reviews the change request and assigns it a priority (e.g. low/medium/high) and severity (e.g. minor-impact/medium/major-impact/critical). This analysis should also estimate the level of effort involved in making the change.
  4. If the level of effort is small then the project manager has it at their discretion to approve the change straightaway. Most project change requests will however go to the weekly steering meeting.
  5. On a weekly basis, the project manager chairs a steering meeting to review all project changes from the previous seven days. Each is presented by the project manager and debated with attendees. The attendees decide whether the change is approved, deferred or declined. Crucially, additions to the project plan can push out deadlines so the meeting should also identify other work items which can be deferred so that goals are still being hit.
  6. Some larger changes may require additional financial sign-off for approval. If the project sponsor is not present at the weekly meeting then they must be presented with the change in order to get the final approval.
  7. The project manager completes the meeting minutes, updates the project plans and assigns change requests to the appropriate status and individual. Project teams are informed of the work updates and alterations.

Change request form: A formal document detailing the exact details of requested alteration/improvement to an existing project plan or product. Check out the sample template structure defined in our article on project scope change management.

Change log: This is usually a simple spreadsheet maintained by the project manager to log and maintain the status of all change requests. Many online versions are also available, though it could simply be a spreadsheet. It is only useful if it is maintained/updated on a regular basis for tracking the status of all open/active changes.

Decision meeting: A weekly steering meeting chaired by the project manager to review all of the project change requests from previous week that are still active. Attendees should include the product manager as well as the authors of any internal change requests. Optional attendees include the project sponsor.

Is Change Management Training Required?

Change management training can prove to be very useful if you have larger projects and need to formalize the change management strategy more stringently. Suitable training can be found from the Project Management Institute (PMI) as well as any project management consultants/training firms.

In particular, training in the PRINCE2 change management strategy puts a heavy emphasis on formal the processes and responsibilities used in managing change in larger organizations. For smaller firms, these processes can be too heavyweight and the above simplified change management model is sufficient.

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Author Rod Dunne...

Blog owner and sole writer Rod DunneI am the owner and sole writer on Product-ivity.com. This is my personal blog detailing troubleshooting tips for small businesses. Posts are based upon 2 decades in consultancy & innovation management within startups/maturing companies.

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