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What is a change management process? I have written before about the growing need for evolutionary projects in a rapidly changing environment, about change management projects, and about the need for scope management.

For those who are new to my blog, here’s a quick introduction. The traditional project management approach is to define scope and work towards accomplishing it. But sometimes the project needs are so vague that it’s hard to define scope and the project becomes an experiment to see if something can be done. (For example, can we create a new and improved way of managing projects?)

To further confuse the discussion, there is a growing discipline in the business world that is referred to as organizational design or change management – and these terms (and a few others) refer to projects that are undertaken to change a significant part of an organization’s design or business model. There can be overlap. Most projects are undertaken to change something.

When the Agile movement began, the effort was to improve the way we manage software projects. The thinking was that technology was changing so fast that we needed a more flexible approach. And so, some different project management approaches, such as Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), and Kanban have evolved. In these approaches, the focus is on being able to capitalize on change.

Let’s face it. Change is a constant. Capitalizing on the benefits that change may offer is a good thing. But constant change can be quite chaotic, and can distract the team from focusing on the work at hand. Here are five reasons that your team needs an effective change management process.

An effective change management process can reduce the chaos, and still allow the team to capitalize on change.

Imagine that when you arrived at your office every single morning, the contents of your desk have been emptied and you have to spend the first three hours re-organizing your desk. That’s the feeling when you work on a project team with a boss who changes his/her mind about the project every day. You begin your day by trying to figure out what is going on, where everything is, and how to move forward.

To have a change management process, the team needs to start with some idea of where it is going. What is the basic plan? How will we know if we are successful?

An effective change management process defines the steps for considering project changes.

A strong change management process does not play favorites.

A proposed change from someone on the team is given the same level of consideration as a change request from the CEO. This is essential. The process must be fair to work well. Senior executives rarely understand the ins and outs on a project, so team members are often better positioned to see opportunities for beneficial changes. Create a process that treats all proposed changes the same way.

A structured change management process empowers people to think about the benefits of change.

While few of us want to begin every day by having to start over with a blank slate, change can be beneficial. A structured process gives us a plan for how to benefit from change without change wreaking havoc on our daily jobs.

Anyone can submit a change request. The requests are processed fairly. Changes that make good sense are then implemented. Sounds simple right? Stay tuned next week for part two: How to Create a Project Change Management Process.