They say the only sure things in life are death and taxes. However, there may be a third – project scope change. Project changes usually result from two causes. First, the stakeholders do not understand all of the details and nuances of what they need at the time you ask them. The second reason for project change is that the business is changing, the industry is changing and the world is changing. The needs of your project may change as well.

Usually scope changes are not much of a problem. However, changes can be more disruptive and problematic if they come in late to the project. If your project is already long and the proposed changes require a lot of work, the team may resist adding additional work. This can be a common problem because late changes usually require quite a bit of work to retrofit back into the solution.

Having to complete late scope change requests can be a problem for the project manager. The team is tired and they are not motivated. In fact, morale may be poor. However, this is the time for the project manager to show leadership. Here are some things for the project manager to consider.

1.    Explain the facts first.
Do not start with a rah-rah speech right away. First, meet with the team and explain the background and circumstances. Then, talk through the changes that are needed and why they are important from a business perspective.

2.    Acknowledge the pain.
The project manager must acknowledge the problems. Let the team know that you understand that they may not want to make the changes and that their morale is poor. Don’t dwell on it – but acknowledge it.

3.    Be motivational.
Okay, now is the time to motivate the team. Appeal to their sense of working together as a team to get through this adversity. Let them know the value they are providing to the company.

4.    Talk to everyone one-on-one.
In addition to the team meeting, talk to the entire team one-on-one to understand where they are at mentally. Listen to their concerns and get their personal commitment to work hard and keep going.

5.    Get management and the sponsor involved.
Now is also a good time to ask your manager and your sponsor to talk to the team, thank them for their work so far and ask for their continued help getting through the changes.

6.    Look for perks.
Little perks can help a team get through motivational and morale trouble. These can be as simple as donuts in the morning and pizza for those that have to work late overtime.

7.    Make sure the clients are in there with you.
Normally if the project team is working extra, the clients are sharing the pain as well. However, the project manager should make sure they are.

8.    Communicate proactively.
Keep everyone informed as to the state of the project and the time and effort remaining. If the project manager starts getting closed and secretive with information, it causes many more problems to morale.

9.    Celebrate successes.
The project manager does not need to wait until the project is over to declare success. Look for milestones, or mini-milestones, as opportunities to celebrate a victory and give praise to team members.

Summary

A project manager needs to have more management and leadership tools than simply telling people to “do their jobs.’ Implementing late change requests requires good people management skills to get through successfully. Success is never guaranteed, but utilising some of these tips can help you get though a tough situation. 

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