Scope Management: A Tool for Change Management in the Construction Industry

Posted by MDA Projects on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 with 2 comments
Project success in the construction industry, as with any business development in any other industry, is about delivering results. It requires meticulous planning of the work required to achieve project objectives according to agreed client baseline requirements, timeously and within budget. It also requires professional, independent and experienced orchestration of these two key success factors:

  • setting and managing progress goals and devising a scope management system to manage the evolving specification and
  • detailed design processes as the baseline requirements become the full project scope,
thus limiting risk through all phases of the construction project cycle from initiation to closing.

More than a linear process

However, scope management is not just a linear process of project scope ‘checks and balances’ blended together to assist in getting a project started. It’s about identifying project constraints, possible issues and challenges, effectively addressing these and, where possible, planning for them. It’s about taking the time required at the outset to clarify these real and potential issues and challenges, and to devise contingencies to prevent – or at least minimise diversions, delays and unforeseen costs. Essentially, it’s about helping to mitigate risk.

Why change occurs

Change is inevitable and can be a major project risk, which, if resisted or poorly managed could cause severe delays, overspend and even project failure. But before addressing how to manage change, its important to understand why it occurs.

The reasons for change are multiple and vary from project to project. They may result from:
  • Additional time required to contemplate user needs
  • An inadequately defined project brief Design errors
  • Site conditions
  • Inclement weather
  • Material shortages
  • Lack of skills and performance issues
The point is, change is unavoidable.

How not to manage change

Depending on where in the project cycle the change occurs the first person to feel the effect of that change – it could be a member of the design team or the contractor - may be tempted to ‘fix it’. Design changes during the pre-construction phase are the easiest to resolve as they generally only incur costs. Changes after construction has started are more difficult to manage as they may incur both costs and time.

Under pressure not to incur the costs associated with delays and disruptions, the contractor for instance, may be tempted to resolve the problem himself. This could have implications that are far reaching beyond the scope of the contractor to remedy. Invariably he is not the party best equipped to assess all the facts, conduct a complete assessment of the potential implications, and come to an all-encompassing project solution. Consequently, it is unlikely that he would be the best person to manage the associated risk and the subsequent impact on the project and all its stakeholders.

Who is best positioned to manage scope change?

As it poses a high risk, scope management is not just about flagging change and following a change-order process. As part of the overall scope management process it is a function of the independent project manager who is best able to manage the risk associated with change as he is in a pivotal position between the client, design team and the contractor. This is a key project imperative because we never know when change will occur, what form it will take or how big the ramifications will be in terms of project cost and project schedule. To achieve project success, effective change management requires knowing how to engage with the change process in a systematic way rather than a hit-and-miss reactionary response.