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Responding to Environmental Change

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 6/30/2011

Project environmental change can throw a wrench in otherwise noble project management efforts. Learn effective ways for dealing with environmental change and how you can respond, not react, to environmental change when it occurs in your project. Find tips and tricks to use in your next project.

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    Project Environmental Change Happens

    What Will You Do When Project Environmental Changes Occur? When it comes to project environmental change, your project can become easily derailed if the change is not properly managed. Project environmental change includes happenings such as changing offices or literally changing space, changing the way the office is set up, or even changing the location of the project, if the project is being conducted off-site.

    When these changes occur, the best practice is to avoid panicking. Instead, while failure to respond to environmental change in projects is one of the leading causes of project failure, environmental change can be managed just like any other change in a project - through implementing careful change management practices.

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    Managing Environmental Changes in Your Project

    One of the reasons that environmental change causes such a ruckus in project management is that many project managers do not treat the change as its own project. That's right, I said treat the environmental change as a project in itself. There will be many factors involved in your environmental change. You will need, possibly, to pack items, move items, train and retrain staff, ensure that important documents are accessible, and more. In order to implement environmental changes, the best strategy is to come up with an environmental change management plan.

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    Be Aware of Critical Success Factors for Environmental Change

    There are eight critical success factors for any change management undertaking. First, you need to make sure you are creating a sense of urgency when it regards the change, especially when that change is environmental. Moving offices or project locations can be exhausting and many may see it as a cumbersome task. By creating a sense of urgency surroudning the environmental change, you can be sure that your team members will get on what needs to be done.

    You also will need to make sure your team members understand the reasons behind the change, that the environmental change is do-able with the staff you have (if not, you will need to make sure to involve the resources you will need), and communication will become primary. Without an effective communication plan, your project's environmental change may fail. Finally everyone in leadership will need to be on board with the change, and that strategies are taken to ensure that everyone is up to speed with the implications of the change.

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    Implementing an Environmental Change Plan

    In order to successfully implement your plan for environmental change in your project, it is important to ensure that at every level, there is a clear chain of what needs to be done. Make sure that your environmental change management document includes the following:

    • Clear goals for managing the environmental change - what do you want to get out of the change? These goals should be succinctly defined.
    • Allocation of resources - who is responsible for which aspects of the change?
    • Changes in project scope - if your project has changed locals, how has this created a change in your project's scope?
    • Cost of the change and budget for the change - how much has this change costed the company? What is the budget for implementing the change?

    Additionally, should the environmental change require authorization, it will be important to have the appropriate logs and forms submitted.

    While some project managers may crumble under such a feat, managing environmental change does not have to be devastating for you - after all you now have the tools to do it successfully!