We spend a great deal of time, as project management trainers and practitioners, focusing on the activities that occur at the beginning of a project. Defining scope, developing the scope of work, recruiting and developing resources around the project, scheduling – these activities tend to receive the greatest attention as new project managers tend to require the most refinement in the planning phase of their projects.

Where we are brought back into the project process comes when the first change occurs. Dealing with change on projects is one thing. But integrating change in a positive and proactive manner is something else. Here are three points you can use to prepare your team for big change when it happens.

1. You cannot plan for change.
The nature of change itself is that it is unexpected. It is dynamic. It is fluid. It will come from all directions and areas of the business when you least expect it. There are two points to be aware of as a leader of your project team. First, if you did your planning right up front, sudden change is likely not the result of poor project management. Second, if the business requirements are changing around you, it is not always an indicator of poor project sponsorship. These two points are often unfairly delivered in tandem. It is up to you to keep your team motivated and productive as you work to integrate change, no matter where in the organization it comes from.

While you cannot plan for change, you can certainly plan what will happen when you are confronted with it.

2. You cannot insulate your project from last-minute change.
If change is truly dynamic, unexpected, and fluid, beware the tendency to build in a drop-dead point for change on your project. As experienced project managers will tell you, change happens when it happens, whether or not you have placed a moratorium on your project.

In fact, change that hits your project after your deliverables are “feature complete” will still have an impact, if not on your own project, on your stakeholders and the organization.

3. You cannot create perfect stability in your project.
In fact, not only is it impossible to create stability within your project environment, it is a detriment to your project to attempt to do so.

However, the project plan is a document that invites assumptions of stability. But markets change. Technology changes. Working to insulate your project with too much rigidity in your project plan will also insulate you and your team from great potential opportunity that comes with maturing markets.

Building a model into your project planning process for dealing with change will help you answer all three of these points with flexibility and efficiency.

First, build a change process that is accepting of all change as change requests in your project plan.

Once you have captured these change requests in a simple system, you are able to review each under the guidelines set by the project in the first place: where will this requested change affect the project Cost, Schedule, or Performance against plan. The result is a system of options – options you are able to review for sign-off with your project sponsors. Options which allow you to remain completely flexible in accepting change at any point in the project, and delivering a platform for processing that change in an open and dynamic arena.

Visit cadencemc.com to download the Cadence Change Request document. This tool has helped project managers around the world by providing a mechanism for capturing each change request – and the impact of the change – in a single page. Available for free right now on cadencemc.com!