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Change Management in Construction: What it is With Examples

what is construction change management?

What is Change Management in Construction?

In other industries, change management (or the management of change) refers to the process you use to smooth the way for big changes to the company's direction or manner of doing business.

Management of change examples in this vein include mergers or acquisitions, changes in leadership, implementation of new technology, or dealing with a crisis.

In construction, change management is a slightly different beast. Instead of managing changes in long-term goals or organizational culture, change management in construction happens at the project level.

Changes are nearly inevitable in construction, and they can cost you time, money, and a client's goodwill when you don't handle them properly.

What Are Some Management of Change Examples in Construction?

Management of change examples in construction include:

  • Errors in design or engineering
  • Poor project planning or management
  • Funding or cash flow problems
  • Supply chain problems
  • Legal or regulatory challenges
  • Defective workmanship or errors in following plans
  • Personnel changes
  • Unexpected site conditions
  • Client requests

Murphy's Law is alive and well and thrives on the construction site's chaos. These reasons can result in project delays, cost overruns, and frustrated clients.

What are the Best Practices for Change Management in Construction?

The most fundamental change management best practice in construction is to avoid it in the first place. That means identifying any errors or potential problems early – ideally before the work begins. Scrutinize the plans for any errors or omissions, double-check that you've dotted the i's and crossed the t's in the contract, inspect the proposed worksite for any surprises, and so on.

You'll never be able to head off every problem, so your runner-up change management best practice is to anticipate that your project will be shaken up at some point and have effective methods for dealing with it. That means:

  • Maintaining a consistent construction chain of command
  • Having a process for assessing the implications and knock-on effects of a significant change
  • Developing contract language that clearly and establishes the initial scope of work explicitly and sets a process for future changes
  • Establishing a management of change process to guide you through all the necessary risk assessments and decisions
  • Sticking to a formal change order policy and taking steps to protect yourself from change order disputes

Finally, you want to err on overcommunication to ensure all changes happen smoothly. Communicate clearly and consistently both up (to the client) and down (to subcontractors and workers). Document absolutely everything, even if it's just in your private notes, but ensure that essential points from any spoken exchanges are summarized in writing for later reference. Follow-up emails are your best friend!

What Is a Management of Change Process?

Management of change procedure is your systematic approach to implementing change in a way that controls the variables.

Construction change management has a different scope and meaning than corporate change management. While the corporate version is as much about managing resistance to change as it is about logistics, the changes you're working on in construction don't threaten the continuation of culture in the same way. It's almost purely logistics, with a side order of managing expectations, especially for the client.

That doesn't stop us from borrowing the components of established change management procedures from the corporate world where they apply.

Identify the Change

When you initially learn that a change might be needed, first, you want to think it through. What is the reason for the change, and how does that fit in with the ultimate goal of your project?

Is the change necessary? If not, is it a good idea?

What are the possible strategies for bringing about the change? Try not to get too locked into one solution without exploring all the options.

Analyze the Context

Next, you must think through all your potential change's ripple effects. If you're entertaining multiple solutions, how do the impacts of those strategies differ?

Consider:

  • How the change will affect the timeline. Consider the cascading effects and the availability of necessary resources for each project stage.
  • How the change will affect the cost of the project.
  • The scope of the work required by the change and how the change might alter the scope elsewhere.
  • What risks the change might introduce.

It would be best if you also analyzed how all risks, costs, and delays can be mitigated.

Formalize the Plan

Once you understand all the variables and possibilities, lay them out for essential stakeholders and get an agreement on the strategy you'll pursue. You'll also want to identify what should bring everyone back to the table for more discussion.

Document the necessary steps and formalize everything with a signed change order.

Implement the Changes

Put your plan into action, leaning heavily on communication to ensure everyone's on the same page.

Implementing a change in something as complicated as a construction project will require close monitoring to ensure that nothing is lost in the shuffle.

Revise the Management of Change Process

Every time you go through the change management process, it allows you to learn the best way to manage change. For example, maybe you forgot to reschedule a supply delivery last time – you can revise your process to ensure you remember to do it next time.

Manage Risk with Safety Training Online

Keeping your crew up to date on their required OSHA training is another way to head an expensive problem off the pass. After all, a ding on an OSHA inspection or a severe injury on-site will throw a wrench in the works.

Our online courses are self-paced, mobile-friendly, and backed up by over 20 years as an OSHA-authorized training provider. We offer OSHA 10, OSHA 30, and a slew of standard-specific Construction courses in English and Spanish. Enroll today!

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