Change management is an essential part of any project. In fact, change is inevitable in construction projects and occurs throughout the project lifecycle from inception till operation.
Project change mostly involves disruptive effects, such as time and cost overruns, plus quality degradation.
Change management aims to minimize these damaging effects, and secure successful project delivery.
In this post, we will discuss change management definition, classifications, causes, effects, and systems.
Table of Contents
Change Management Definition
Change is defined as an ‘act or process through which something becomes different’ (Oxford Dictionary).
Change in construction projects refers to any additions, omissions, or modifications to the scope of work, whereby it increases or decreases the time needed throughout the project schedule or cost.
In other words, change is any deviation from an agreed upon well-defined scope and schedule.
Managing change is an integrated process linked to the external and internal project factors that influence the project in order to forecast expected changes, identify changes that will occur, prevent change impact and coordinate changes across the project.
There are different levels and classifications of change. In her PhD thesis, Erdogan put forth that in construction, there are two levels of CM – the organizational level and the project level.
The organizational level addresses improving organizational efficiency through implementing organizational changes related to management, teamwork, social behavior, and advanced technology.
The organizational level helps stakeholders embrace change within their operating systems, which involves different processes, actions, and fundamentals for managing the ‘people’ side of change in order to accomplish organizational targets.
The classifications of change at the project level are various, and it can be divided into three categories:
- According to its severity, from “gradual change”, which happens slowly, or “radical change”, which is sudden.
- Based on being planned in advance or not to “anticipate changes”, and “emergent changes”.
- According to the necessity for “elective changes”, which can be chosen or not, and “required changes”, where there are not any other available options to implement change.
Additionally, there is another classification of change types consisting of three categories, as well:
- Based on the time to “anticipated or emergent” or “proactive or reactive” and “pre-fixity or post-fixity”.
- According to the need for “elective or required” or “discretionary or nondiscretionary” and “preferential or regulatory”.
- Based on the effect of being “beneficial, neutral or disruptive”.
The Causes of Change
Change occurrence in construction projects is common and stems from different sources through various causes.
Identifying and understanding the root causes of change are vital as this assists with preventing them in the future. In addition, determining change causes is an integrated part of the requirements for an effective CM system and prediction tools.
Change causes can originate from either internal or external sources, where external causes are changes in technology, customer expectations, competitor activities, government policies, demographics, and the economy.
Internal causes include changes in organizational regulations and objectives and those during design and/or construction.
The design and/or construction phase is the main instigator of project change.
Design causes of change include design modification, correction, coordination, deletions and errors, while construction causes are site conditions, value engineering, contract documents, work additions, scope changes, lack of coordination, skill and equipment unavailability, and safety considerations.
The effects of project change may be beneficial or detrimental.
Beneficial changes improve project performance, and result from value engineering to support time and cost deductions, and facilitate the degree of difficulty.
Conversely, detrimental changes minimize owners’ value and result in negative impacts to the project’s overall performance in terms of time, cost and quality.
Change management concentrates on detrimental changes with the purpose of minimizing disruption.
However, change effects can take different forms, such as changes in communication, information, and scheduling and cash flow, as well as increases in work scope, waste, omission, disputes, and uncertainty.
The effects of change are categorized into direct and indirect, where direct effects influence the project directly, such as reworking, work demolition, work additions, time, and cost overruns, and indirect effects are the consequences of direct effects, like the lack of communication, coordination and productivity, earnings loss, and legal issues.
The direct consequences are identifiable, clearly defined, and have quantifiable metrics, and indirect consequences are intangible and require qualitative measures for assessment. The timely identification of change impact is crucial for achieving successful project delivery.
Change Management Systems
The key principle of Change management systems is to establish a framework for managing change and mitigate its negative impact.
These systems were not highlighted until the late 1990s with best practice guidelines, and the emergent progress began with generic process models in the early 2000s till the rise of sophisticated modelling environments in the mid-2000s and early 2010s.
The best practice guidelines presented a proactive approach for beneficial and detrimental changes via a mechanism aids in reducing or mitigating the effects of unavoidable change and depends on four elements: recognize, evaluate, resolve and learn from changes.
Based on the previous guidelines, they presented a systematic change management system to minimize detrimental change and instead promote beneficial change.
The advantages of this system was its ability to identify and forecast potential changes and evaluate their effects during the lifecycle of changes.
However, overall, it has been difficult for change management systems to follow project changes manually through the adoption of different data models, and also the implemented software for tracking these changes was limited.
As a result, traditional change management systems were blamed for their limitations, and there was an emergent need to understand the role of BIM in managing change throughout design and construction projects.
Source: Mostafa Khames (2017) The Integration of Building Information Modelling and Change Management to Improve Construction Industry Performance.
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