Change is the basic condition of our lives. Buddha said, “Everything changes, nothing remains without change.” Jesus was hip to change, too: “…no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.” Even a worldly guy like Robert C. Gallagher, retired chairman of Associated Banc-Corp, observed, “Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.”
If you’re a project manager, sooner or later that beautiful plan you and your team crafted is going to get slammed by a rogue asteroid with “change” carved into it. Get used to it. (It’s okay to hate it—just get used to it.)
Based on my relentless research, I’ve concluded there are two general categories of change. Because I can’t think of any really good names for them, I call them Closeup Change and Big Picture Change (if you think those names are bad, you should have seen the ones I had before the edit).
Closeup Change is the type directly related to your project. Your plan calls for a widget, a dowhat and a thingy, but partway in Somebody Important decides you need a geegaw, too. Being sagacious, you have planned for such changes and have a process in place for dealing with them. (You do, right? Don’t make me come over there!)
In our line of work, we probably deal with Big Picture Change less than with Closeup. Big Picture is the type of change that permeates an entire organization and has a material effect on people and various aspects of their work. Your project could be the beneficiary or victim of Big Picture Change, or it could be a cause of or contributor to the change. Company mergers are a good example of Big Picture change.
With Closeup Change, you’ve got to deal with project management nuts and bolts. With Big Picture Change, you’ve got to look up from the nuts and bolts for a bit and see, well… the Big Picture! You must become familiar with your organization’sstrategic direction, the business environment in which it operates, its cultural valuesand, perhaps most important, the way in which various parts of the organizationinteract. You may not be able to affect anything about the Big Picture Change, but if you see it coming and can make an educated appraisal of how it will affect your sponsors, your team, etc., you’re less likely to get whacked by a corner of the Big Picture Frame. (Yes, that’s a terrible pun. No, I’m not sorry.)
I hope to write more about change—both kinds—in future posts.