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Change Management in Project Management
By Chuck Tryon

Process Description

Single-Time Efforts are the primary means for an organization to introduce new products and services to their internal and external customers. These “one of” projects are also needed to enhance existing products and services. Once started, dynamic business needs and technology innovation often take a project in unpredicted directions. These new directions frequently result in dramatic changes that must be incorporated into the original project intent and goals. Because of the frequency and severity of these influences on Single-Time Efforts, Change Management is a critical component of Project Management It provides a controlled mechanism to fairly and accurately alter the scope and content of a project.

Process Purpose

Change is a natural by-product of dynamic business needs and unclear early scope definition for many projects. Unless a well-defined Change Management process is in place, the demand for change often deteriorates into unrealistic demands by management and the customer. This results in the inability of the project team to control scope, prevent expensive delays, minimize stress and avoid confusion. Change Management brings an objective process to project scope modification.

Use Criteria

Change Management is a relevant discussion only when an initial project agreement (Project Charter) was created for the effort that defines the project’s vision, scope, objectives and strategies. This agreement must be approved by the Project Owner before work begins. As the project progresses, this agreement must be modified due to new realities and approved changes. Additionally, any technical needs should be captured in formal specification documents. A Change Management process will control any revisions to that original agreement.

Change Management is used throughout the life of the project. The amount of use should be in direct proportion to the number and significance of the changes to the project. In general, a Change Management process is appropriate anytime significant modification is needed to a preexisting agreement with the Project Owner.

Change Management is specifically needed when a requested revision alters the…

  • Baseline project agreement (Project Charter)
  • Technical specifications for project products
  • Tactical strategy for accomplishing the goals of the project (Project Plan)
  • Financial requirements for the project
  • Vision for project deliverables
  • Impact on the business organization
  • Risk of failure
  • Political implications

Change Management is typically not required when…

  • A team must choose between two or more similar paths
  • The proposed change will not require additional cost or time
  • The issues of the change may be completely addressed at the team level
  • Schedule changes fall within the usual reforcasting required for normal project planning
  • The effect of change on cost and time falls within a predefined rate (+/- _____ %) established with the Project Owner
  • The effect of change on cost falls within a specific dollar limit ($_______) established with the Project Owner.

Process Flow

1.0 Recognize Potential for Project Change – The Change Management process begins with the recognition that the current scope or direction of the project is no longer valid. This may be the result of…

  • New business process that must be included in the project
  • Major revisions to the project deliverables’ functionality
  • Something significant that was unintentionally excluded
  • Additional work required of the project team
  • Work or scope being reduced to fit within a shorter time period
  • New technology directions needed
  • New technology obtained
  • New organizations wishing to participate in the project

These changes may be suggested by the Project Owner, end customers (users), other associated management or members of the Project Team. For these issues to become legitimate targets for Change Management, they must reflect a significant shift from the documented intent and content of the current project agreement and associated specifications. Before the project is started, the Project Owner should reach an agreement with the Project Manager as to what is a significant change. Based on predefined criteria, if a potential change is not deemed significant, it should be recorded in a Project Issues Log (See Issues Management Process).

2.0 Document the Project Change – The Project Manager is responsible for capturing pertinent information about the proposed change using a Project Change Request. This may include a description of the change, the cause of the change (omission from original scope, a new business opportunity or scope reduction), the source of the change (who asked for it), the impact to the project (cost, benefit, schedule, risk, technology, etc.), any known alternatives, a suggested change date and a required decision date.

3.0 Review With Non-Owner Organizations – If a proposed change will influence a segment of the business organization that is not directly represented in the project ownership, the Project Change Request should be certified by these organizations to insure compatibility with the current environment and future plans. Any concerns expressed by these organizations should be documented on the Project Change Request before it is submitted to the Project Owner. It is important to note that this review is not an approval or disapproval of the proposed change. It is intended to validate that a change is viable and legitimate.

4.0 Submit Proposed Change to Owner – The Project Change Request should now be presented to the Project Owner for action. The most likely timing for submitting a proposed change is during a scheduled project (Checkpoint) review. After reviewing the proposed change, the Project Owner may…

  • 4.1 Approve the Proposed Change – If the Project Owner elects to approve the proposed change, the change become an official part of the current project’s scope and should be included in the existing agreement (Project Charter). Unless otherwise stated, the associated impacts of the change are automatically included as well. Any necessary changes to plans or specifications should now be made. When approving a change, the Project Owner may request that the change be accommodated at a different time than was listed on the Project Change Request. The Project Owner’s actions should be recorded on the Project Change Request.
  • 4.2 Table the Proposed Change – The Project Owner may also choose to table the proposed change to a later date. This may allow time to obtain additional information or to give the Project Owner time to review the proposed change in greater detail. Any critical Decision Date should be communicated to the Project Owner. The Project Manager should record these actions.

  • 4.3 Reject the Proposed Change – If the Project Owner does not believe the proposed change is in the best interest of the project, they may reject the Project Change Request. Their reason for taking this action should be filed with the request information.

5.0 Record Action in Project Issues Log – Each proposed change should have an entry in the Project Issues Log. Actions against this proposed change should be recorded as they occur.

6.0 Update Project Documents – If a proposed change has been approved by the Project Owner, the Project Manager will document the effects to the change on all appropriate project documents. This may include components of the Project Charter, Project Plan, related specifications and physical products. These revised documents should be submitted to the Project Owner.

7.0 Notify Original Requester – The person or organization that originally requested the change should now be notified of any action by the Project Owner.


  • Project Change Request – A collection of information that formally defines a proposed project change. This information may be captured on paper or electronically.
  • Project Issues Log – A list of topics, events or concerns recognized by the Project Team during a project. This log is comprised of a description of the issue, a date the issue is first recognized, the possible impact of the issue on the project, the suggested action that will resolve the issue, who is assigned to resolve the issue and the date the issue is resolved.

Templates and Tools

A Project Change Request Template has been attached for use (please scroll to the end of the PDF). A summary of these changes may also be captured by the Project Manager with links to each individual change request.

Chuck Tryon is a nationally respected educator and popular symposium speaker. He founded Tryon and Associates in 1986 to provide seminar training and consulting that helps organizations and individuals develop predictable and repeatable approaches to modern project management, knowledge management and business requirements. The strategies presented in Mr. Tryon’s seminars are used by thousands of professionals in hundreds of organizations across the United States, Europe and Canada. His client list includes many top 100 companies.

Chuck has authored 10 multi-day seminars and is working on several new writing projects. He is a frequent speaker at Project Management Institute meetings symposiums across the country. Chuck also serves as the coordinator and moderator for the annual Knowledge and Project Management Symposium ( that is held each August in Tulsa.

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