Often management consultants are hired to accomplish a specific goal, but before the engagement is complete, the project’s scope has expanded to include more than you or the client bargained for. Because scope creep often happens quietly, it’s easy for a management consultant to spend time dealing with it without even realizing that he or she is doing a significant amount of extra work. By developing a formal scope-change control process for each engagement, you can give all stakeholders an opportunity for their suggestions to be considered, while ensuring that your project stays on track and on budget.

It all starts with a clear definition of what’s included in your project’s scope – and also what isn’t. By clearly establishing these expectations up-front, you’re making the project boundaries clear to all team members. Then, you can let all stakeholders know that any suggestion or request that relates to the project, but falls outside those boundaries, will be considered a scope change, and must be evaluated using a well-defined scope-change control process.

Defining a process to manage requested project changes should happen early in the project analysis and planning phase. A well-documented change-control plan helps to:

Improve communication among all team members regarding requested changes

- Provide a logical process for evaluating requested changes

- Offer team members a way to report any problems that arise during the course of a project

- Show team members that their contributions and ideas are valued

- Maintain control over project goals and use of resources

Who’s in Charge of Changes?

As the management consultant leading a project, it’s a good idea to establish a “change-control board” that will be responsible for evaluating the feasibility of proposed project scope changes. Heading up this board will be a chairperson with the authority to make final decisions regarding proposed changes and for assigning specific tasks to others, such as evaluating suggestions and implementing suggested changes.

Next, you’ll need to develop a formal process by which team members can submit ideas, concerns, suggestions or issues to the project’s change-control board. The board will also need to create a spreadsheet or database detailing each change request and tracking its status, time and resource requirements, and other important notes.

When a change request is submitted, a designated individual should be assigned to assess the idea’s viability, pertinence to the project, quality impact, potential risk, and time and resource requirements. This person reports his or her findings back to the board, which can either seek more information, if necessary, or decide whether the change should be made now, later, or not at all.

How Are Changes Implemented?

For all except minor project changes, it’s a good idea to present the proposed change to the project or organization’s key leaders to gain their buy-in before moving ahead – especially if it involves pushing back deadlines or requires the commitment of additional resources.

If the change is approved, the board chairperson can then assign an individual who will be responsible for implementing the changes. As the management consultant, you’ll need to negotiate any revisions to the schedule or other project commitments with all affected team members. If project plans or schedules need to be updated to incorporate the change, be sure to keep all parties informed.

Establishing a process for managing scope creep requests reassures all team members that their suggestions will be carefully considered. Because a formal change-management process provides a complete impact analysis for any suggested change, it can also help to pinpoint and reduce risk for management consultants.

Author's Bio: 

Jim Cochran is the President of Business Insurance Now, an online business insurance company dedicated to managing risk for small businesses. Jim has been providing insurance quotes for management consultants for over a decade, making him a valuable source of advice for business owners looking to reduce their risk.