Provide Leadership to Implement Critical Change Requests
Scope change is not inherently bad or good. However, the team can react to changes in positive and negative ways, depending on the state of the project. A typical reaction from most project teams is to just go ahead and make the approved changes. However, there is another reaction that can be more problematic – the team may not want to make any more changes. This is the scenario for this column. This situation could occur for a variety of reasons.
- This may be a long project, perhaps requiring overtime, and people just want the project to end.
- The proposed changes will require a lot of work, and the deadline date is being held firm. Again, overtime may be required from the team.
- Members of the project team and the client have not had a smooth relationship on the project. There may be project team members that do not want to help the client further.
- The changes require major upstream rework – including changes to requirements, design, and other phases that have already been completed.
All of these situations (and more) result in a scenario where the project team is not motivated to support scope changes. This puts the project manager in a tough position where he has to get the rest of the team on board for one last charge.
Frankly, it’s a tough sell. The team is usually tired and they are not motivated. In fact, morale may be poor. However, this is the time for the project manager to show leadership. Since the cause of the team problems is probably complex, the solution should be multi-faceted as well. Here are some things for the project manager to consider.
- 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.
- Acknowledge the pain. The project manager must acknowledge the problems. Let the team members know that you understand that they may not want to make the changes. Don’t dwell on it – but acknowledge it.
- Be motivational. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
A project manager needs to have more management and leadership skills than simply telling people to “do their jobs.” This is a tough situation and requires good people management skills to get through successfully. Success is never guaranteed, but utilizing some of these tips can help you get through a tough situation.