Buslog project manager Cecil called Uma and suggested that they would like to get an available-to-promise document after they receive a purchase order acknowledgment from CSM. Uma told Cecil that it would be an addition to the scope of what had been agreed upon and she would have to discuss it with her project core team before committing to it. Cecil mentioned that he was under the impression that CSM was totally committed to working with Buslog on process automation. Uma reinforced to Cecil that they are committed to working with Buslog for successful process automation but that because this transaction had not been included in the project plan, she had to go back to the core team and get their consensus and the steering team's input before committing to it. She told Cecil that she would get back to him in a couple of days.
Uma asked Chris and others in the order processing department if an available-to-promise document was an existing process between the two companies. An order processing clerk mentioned that it was the usual process and she was surprised that it wasn't included in the agreement. Uma called a core team meeting to discuss whether this additional functionality should be included in the scope. Bob felt that it should be. Uma added this to the project plan and called Cecil to inform him.
As development was being completed and the system was being configured, a business analyst wanted to add a few more fields to the purchase order. The technical team was upset because they would have to go back and redo some of the work they had already completed. Uma wanted the team to meet and freeze the design work so that development work could continue without any interference.
As these small issues came up and conflicts arose, Uma realized that she lacked a change control plan. She created a change request document template and communicated to the team that all change requests should be given to her and she would discuss them with appropriate members before authorizing them. The change request document is shown in Figure 4-1.
Figure 4-1: Project Change Request Form
Uma was very clear to her core team that she expected them to enter the time for each and every scheduled activity. That way, actual performance could be compared with planned performance with respect to both cost and schedule.
Not having a plan to deal with changes was a significant error. Why the whole team would need to be involved in a suggested change is puzzling. A good leader involves people who have a stake in a decision. Uma was wise to check with the order department. When she found out this was standard operating procedure, she should have simply told Cecil and apologized for the error. Again, leadership requires the ability to admit error.
Project leaders need to ensure that appropriate change management procedures are in place. The change order form developed in the example (Figure 4-1) is a good one. The most important issue regarding a change management system is that it be used. A mediocre system that is used consistently is far superior to a well-conceived system that is not used consistently. A key ongoing responsibility of project leaders is to ensure that everyone is using a change control system all the time. This requires discipline and is probably most effective when the project leaders demonstrate by their actions that they use the change control system all the time and expect everyone else to do so as well. A simple system that is quick and easy to use is more likely to be used consistently since it will be less troublesome when people are under time pressure.
Project leaders need to be aware when there is a problem so they can take appropriate corrective action in a timely manner. Many problems, if discovered quickly, are easy to rectify. Those same problems, if allowed to fester, can be much more expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to resolve. Thus, project leaders need to "reward" rather than "shoot" messengers of bad news. A wise project leader develops her project into a learning organization with an emphasis on identifying problems as quickly as possible, correcting them, and removing the underlying causes so they do not reappear. If a project leader has previously done a good job of overseeing the development of detailed project plans, integrating them, and developing appropriate communication systems, she should be rewarded with an early warning system for problems.
Project leaders need to keep in mind a number of additional issues as they monitor progress and control changes. For example:
The project scope and deliverables should be in writing, spelled out in detail, in a form that everyone who reads will interpret in the same way. Wise project leaders understand on one hand the customer's sense of urgency in performing the project and on the other hand the change management problems that occur with starting poorly planned projects. They wrestle with this contradiction, trying to find an acceptable balance.
"Touchpoints" are places in a project where work is passed from one person or group to another or where the work of one project intersects the work of another project or the ongoing work of the parent or customer's organization. Wise project managers challenge their project teams to identify touchpoints in advance that may cause them trouble (some of this should have been done during risk planning and communication planning), but much of it continues throughout project execution. These touchpoints should be carefully monitored and controlled.
If the project leaders are effective in creating a learning organization, many opportunities for improvement should appear. Project leaders need to prioritize and continually reprioritize these opportunities.
Project leaders need to set the example by personally using continuous improvement and insisting that others do so as well.
Project leaders should set good examples by admitting mistakes, accepting blame, and changing systems so the same mistakes do not happen again.
Effective project leaders see both problems and solutions before others do. This early insight requires knowing what to monitor, being frequently available for the monitoring (including many informal contacts with all sorts of project participants and other stakeholders), and having the judgment that comes from experience. Once project leaders see problems or solutions, they need to take action or create a situation whereby project participants can also discover the problems and solutions and take action on their own.
Project leaders need to learn who gives good advice and who does not. They need to know whose opinion can be trusted. Project leaders should have strategies for helping those who do not yet have the judgment to give good advice.
When controlling change (and when performing many other project leadership responsibilities), project leaders need to be effective negotiators. This is such an important skill that project leaders should consider taking some professional training in it.
A Project Leader Needs to:
Accept that many situations will cause changes to the project
Have the courage to insist on disciplined use of a change control system
Exercise the wisdom to make it simple.