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How to Manage Project Change Requests

How project managers handle project change requests depends on individual management styles. On large projects, formal change-control systems govern how you can receive, assess, and act on requests for changes. But whether you handle change requests formally or informally, always follow these steps:

  1. When you receive a request for change to some aspect of your project, clarify exactly what the request is asking you to do.

  2. If possible, ask for the request in writing or confirm your understanding of the request by writing it down yourself.

    In a formal change-control system, people must submit every request for change on a change-request form.

  3. Assess the change’s potential effects on all aspects of your project.

    Also consider what may happen if you don’t make the change.

  4. Decide whether you’ll implement the change.

    If this change affects other people, involve them in the decision, too.

  5. If you decide not to make the change, tell the requester and explain the reason(s).

  6. If you decide to make the change, write down the necessary steps to implement the change.

    In a formal change-control system, all aspects of a change are detailed in a written change order.

  7. Update your project’s plan to reflect any adjustments in schedules, outcomes, or resource budgets as a result of the change.

  8. Tell team members and appropriate audiences about the change and the effect you expect it to have on your project.

Observe the following guidelines to ensure that you can smoothly incorporate changes into your project:

  • Don’t use the possibility of changes as an excuse for not being thorough in your original planning. Make your project plan as accurate and complete as possible to reduce the need for future changes.

  • Remember that change always has a cost. Don’t ignore that cost, figuring you have to make the change anyway. Determine the cost of the change so you can plan for it and, if possible, minimize it.

  • Assess the effect of change on all aspects of your project. Maintain a broad perspective — a change early in your project may affect your project from beginning to end.

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