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Dealing with Changing Goals in the Middle of a Project

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Ginny Edwards • updated: 6/27/2011

What’s a manager to do with changing goals in the middle of a project? Your first thought may be to work the goal change into already pre-planned processes, but often that doesn’t work. Here, you’ll find great tips if your goals change in the midst of a project.

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    What Do You Mean the Goals Have Changed?

    014 by Leila Fa A change in goals for any project can come at anytime from upper management, the client, the stakeholders, end-users or even your own internal processes may present a change in goals.

    In Change Management, you’ve all heard that “change is inevitable, so get used to it." There are ways to make changing goals in the middle of a project easier to deal with, however.

    Often, dealing with changing goals depends upon the type of change. First, you must identify what is changing and why. Only then can you deal correctly with change.

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    Types of Goal Changes

    A fatal flaw some project managers make is ignoring a goal change instead of thinking how they can profit from the change. First identify the change in goals and analyze how changing goals in the middle of a project can be handled effectively.

    • Personnel Change – This can be as simple or as hard as you make it. If your goal was to have four teams and in the middle of the project, a team was lost, you can let it hurt the project or turn the other three teams around. Talk to them about why you lost that fourth team and let them know by working together, the project can still get done on time with even more recognition for a job well done.
    • The Scope Was Wrong – If your scope was wrong to begin with or if stakeholders decide it’s wrong, you might not realize this until you’re well into the project. Perhaps it’s just an element within the scope that needs to be revisited. Don’t try and change the entire scope if you don’t have to. Find out what is wrong and correct it within the current process you’re using.
    • The Methodology Is Wrong – What if you’re halfway through the project and Six Sigma just won’t work? What if TQM would have been a better choice or Agile? All project management methodologies compare in some respects, so only change the processes that need to be changed to implement the new methodology.
    • The Client Changed Their Mind – How many times has this happened to you? Probably too often. Instead of dealing with changing goals in the middle of a project, you should always implement a good risk management plan and change the control plan in your project to help battle this type of goal change.
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    Unchangeable Goals

    Change by Felix Burton Wikimedia Commons What? There are goals that are unchangeable? The answer to this is yes, but it can only be determined with how far you are into a project. If you’re almost done, you’ve probably met most of your goals, including the client and stakeholder goals.

    At some point, you must adhere to your budget and project structure, even if it means dealing with a client. Why should your company put in twice the energy for a client who is willing to pay for your services only once? Clients are good at attempting this so beware of these issues and make sure you include a clause about goal-changing deadlines in your project management contracts.

    If this does happen to you, since the client is always right, explain to them you’d be happy to help them with the changed goal or goals, but it can’t be done for free.

    Changing goals in the middle of a project can be handled if you use your cool and project management skills, especially your change management skills, to help you reach the final outcome without restructuring the entire project.

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