Project Management Institute

In times of change

VOICES | Project Toolkit

Whether you're implementing an enterprise-wide change or responding to a shift in scope, rock-solid change management is a project management must. We asked practitioners:

Understand the Impact

“The main rule for addressing changes is to be clear about their scope and the reasons behind them. Both the project team and project sponsor must agree on the scope of the changes prior to their implementation. One of the most common mistakes is to implement a change before the impacts on the triple constraint are clear to everyone involved. No one can know the real effect of a change before it has been analyzed and estimated. Only after careful consideration of a change's impact can the sponsor and stakeholders understand possible outcomes. The project team, ideally the same one responsible for implementing the change, must focus on the project scope baseline and analyze any impact of any changes.”

—Alejandro Aramburu, PMP, project management office manager, multinational IT services provider NEC Argentina S.A., San Luis, Argentina

Get to the Root Cause

“Frequently, people are just told to make a change, and they don't see the reasoning behind it and the long-term benefits. Take a deep breath, understand the ‘why' of the change and move forward. At first, the change can seem worse than it really turns out to be.

My team has a few mechanisms for dealing with change. We discuss a lot how we're reacting. We have safe places where we can go and rant about the change, and no one hears or sees us. Then we walk out the door ready to face it head-on. So we can explain it better to others, we learn to be investigators of the change—understanding why and what's in it for us.”

—Shelly Lawrence, PMP, senior project manager, PMI Global Executive Council member Wells Fargo, West Des Moines, Iowa, USA

Share the News, Shift the Plan

“Communicate the change to all stakeholders as soon as it is known. No one likes surprises, and everyone appreciates time to react. While there are many steps in responding to change effectively, without effective communication, the rest tend to fail.

Take the time to complete the re-planning, too. Often changes are viewed as requiring less work to plan, but the reality is the opposite. Changes need to be translated into revised scope documents, new requirements, restructured activities, schedules and budgets.”

—John R. Becker, PMP, projects manager, ABCO Subsea, Houston, Texas, USA

Use the Five Ps

“I would suggest the five Ps to project managers struggling with change:

1. Be patient. Generally, things don't happen overnight. It may take some time before any desired or reasonable outcome is reached.

2. Be persistent. Keep on chipping away at the issues. The solution you're seeking may be just around the corner.

3. Be practical. Build up your support group. Create a structure that provides stability and support while you're in the process of transitioning.

4. Be positive. Expect ups and downs. A sense of optimism will help equalize the peaks and valleys and will help keep you focused and committed.

5. Have a purpose. Have a mission, a vision and guiding principles that are vital to you and give meaning to your work life.”

—Norval Oswald, PMP, director, IT strategy and portfolio management, Sears Canada Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Create a Culture of Change

“First, note that all projects by nature are actually managed change. This helps develop a team attitude where change is a natural result of a project moving forward. Only then can a more agile response to risks emerge. Encouraging stakeholders and the team to view a project as a work-in-progress—with a set plan but anticipated variances— makes necessary shifts less of a distraction and more of a shared course correction.

Communication is how you can create a change culture from the start. Everyone within the team and the stakeholders should know that their contribution is critical and matters, because it does. With this collaborative attitude, everyone feels valued and is less afraid to bring new ideas and unanticipated resources to bear. Change is then managed by everyone instead of allocated.”

—David J. Fulton, PMP, communication/marketing specialist, software company VersaSuite, Austin, Texas, USA

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Evaluate, Then Act

“Accept the change while keeping constraints in mind. Identify and evaluate the change, assessing its impact. Then create options to implement the change, and finally communicate these options to stakeholders.”

—Avinash Khare, PMP, project manager, IT infrastructure at Reliance Communications, Thane, India, via the PMI Project, Program and Portfolio Management LinkedIn Group

Move It or Lose It

Take a tip from two companies that failed to change with technological advances.


Two major factors that sunk U.S.-based bookseller Borders: increasing inventory of CDs and DVDs as consumers shifted to digital delivery, and lack of sustained support for its e-reader, Kobo. Combine poor change management with legacy missteps—such as signing long-term leases of costly retail space and relinquishing control of its online sales channel to Amazon—and the retailer had little choice but to liquidate assets in 2011.


The once-revolutionary imaging solutions company filed for bankruptcy in 2012. A big culprit? Lack of agility, innovation and change management when the digital revolution came knocking in the 1980s. By the time the U.S.-based company launched new products in diverse digital fields, its products couldn't keep up with the longer-term, focused innovation of competitors such as Nikon and Fujifilm.

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