Your project should always be open to changes and setting your own idea in stone is something which is definitely to be avoided. We all know that circumstances can change, new solutions can appear and problems can suddenly make themselves known.
This all fine and good but you don’t want to go too much the other way and change things on a whim either. The type of stakeholders you are working with will probably go a long way to determining the number of frivolous change requests you get through and dealing with these could end up being one of your biggest challenges.
Analyze Each Request
Simply giving a yes or no answer to each change request you receive isn’t a great idea, as there is usually no way of thinking through each situation in the necessary depth if you do it this way. A solid piece of analysis is needed for each and every request you get through to change something on the project. How will it affect your timescales and budget? Is it in addition to other pieces of work you are doing or would it be a replacement for some of them? There is a lot to take into account before you can get a clear idea on the overall impact accepting the change would make.
Make It a Transparent Process
You are sure to annoy your stakeholders if you issue emails rejecting their change requests without discussing them. Even if you have analyzed the situation fully and are sure that you are making the right decision you still need to show this to your stakeholders. The best idea is to get all of the stakeholders together in one of your regular project meetings and add the item to your agenda. This will give everyone a chance to discuss the proposal and you might get a resolution there and then. If you don’t then your next move should be to arrange a special get together for the interested parties to analyze the change request in more detail.
Look for a Compromise
After doing all of this analysis and meeting the right people you might have to give the person who raised the change request an answer they don’t want to hear. I am a great believer in always trying to soften the blow of a “no” by giving them something which could be of use to them. Perhaps you could implement a part of their request or find some other sort of a compromise. You might not always be able to do this but it is worth giving it some thought before going back with an answer which you know won’t be welcome. In fact, if you are going through the meeting process we just mentioned and are sure that the answer is going to be negative then you should already start thinking of this. You could keep it up your sleeve as an extra card to be played during the meeting if the situation reaches a bit of deadlock.
Don’t Feel Bad About It
Finally, you can’t forget that you are being paid to run the project. This often means taking some difficult decisions and facing the consequences. Certainly, no one will thank you for caving in to pressure and agreeing to something which ends up throwing your project plan into chaos. If you have followed the right process and given the change request every possible chance of proceeding then there is little for you to feel bad about. If it is a solid enough proposal then you could suggest that the customer tries to get an entirely new project agreed for it. You presumably wouldn’t be averse to getting a little more work sent your way once this piece of work if finished. Anyway, what you should definitely avoid is backing down from tough decisions in order to try and give yourself an easier life. All that you will succeed in doing is storing up a heap of trouble for the future and undermining your own authority. One of the clearest things about your project has to be that a sensible, worthwhile change request will have every chance of succeeding and being implemented. However, a frivolous, badly thought out or pointless one will more than likely fail. The same rules will apply for every change request you need and nothing will be decided behind your customer’s back or on any basis other than the merits of the request itself. With this clear you can concentrate on carrying on with the project in the most efficient way possible.