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Controlling Scope Changes of Upper Management, by Corinne Maddox, CCM, CFM

Project scope changes can be disastrous to project schedules, budgets and the quality of work, as well as to team momentum and enthusiasm. Often it seems that upper management makes major project changes on a whim, but most likely the changes are the result of highly strategic business decisions. Change drivers may include merger and acquisition activity, stock value, company profitability, economic forecasts, actions by competitors, growth and contraction projections and industry innovations. Executives are probably not aware of the impact of their decisions on your projects. Some solutions to the problem include:
  • Communicate frequently and effectively with upper management. Recognize that facilities projects are insignificant compared to the complex decisions they are faced with about the company. The company's business strategy is highly confidential, so don't expect to be kept informed. Providing frequent reports to upper management (preferably in person) will make them aware of project status and give you the opportunity to ask for feedback on potential business activities that could affect the project.
  • Seek out executive approval for significant project decisions, such as award the construction contract. This will help identify changes at times when it is convenient and cost effective for you to change the course of the project.
  • Ask for reconfirmation on project goals and objectives on a regular basis. This will minimize surprises and misunderstandings.
  • If change is likely (and when isn't it?), build flexibility into your project plan - standardize design as much as possible so any department could occupy an area with minimal modifications, include unit prices and alternates into vendor contracts, require designers to get sign-off on each phase of design before proceeding, include contingency space in the project, and create alternate project scenarios to address alternate business scenarios.

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