Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Project Change Management – A Philosophical Dilemma

"Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”
                                                                                                - Sydney J. Harris

Now that we know we’re discussing project change management, it’s time for a decision on how approved change will be addressed in the project.  Let me describe a scenario to help illustrate the two schools of thought.

You start a project and complete and baseline the plan.  It is a six month project.  Three months into the project, you are now one month behind when a key stakeholder requests a significant change to the project scope (a new feature).  You do the planning for this new feature and it will add two months to the project.  What is the new completion date?
One school says the new baseline is the former baseline plus the new change, meaning the project is now baselined as an eight-month project and still one month behind.  The other school says that the new baseline is current actual plus the new change, meaning the project is now baselined as a nine-month project and on schedule.  Advocates for the first method argue that the baseline shouldn’t absorb the delay just because they’ve proposed a change – and they’re right.  Advocates for the second method say that it doesn’t make sense to publish a new baseline with an inaccurate end date – and they’re right.  The ultimate choice depends on subjective considerations over which of the two better fits the organizational culture.

Since there is no absolute “right” or “wrong” choice between these schools, the participants should all understand how change management will work in this scenario (this would be a key section of the change management sections of the Time Management Plan and Cost Management Plan).  While this may not be a critical decision for a P&SD PM, for a consultancy PM or a contracted third-party organization providing PM services, this could be significant given that compensation (penalties and bonuses) may depend on whether the project is early, late or on schedule.
Like many controversies where there is no absolute “right” or “wrong,” this too will have practitioners who have an intuitive and firm position one way or another;  they may have difficulty understanding or even acknowledging the other view.  This can make discussions on the topic difficult because they can get emotional.

If you follow the first scenario, the project team has an incentive to “game” the change estimates, especially if there is a subjective component to the estimate.  That is, if they are behind or over budget, this is their opportunity to catch up, so it may not make much difference which school you prefer.
If you follow the second scenario, there may be stakeholders who feel the project team is taking advantage of them to erase variances.  Thus, in the end it comes down to the ethical practices of the project manager and the project team.

Which method do you use and why?  Have you experienced any problems caused by this?
© 2013 Chuck Morton.  All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

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