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Process Improvement

Construction Change Management: What You Need to Know

Written By: Joe Demski
April 25, 2022
8 min read

Construction change management and project management intertwine when addressing people, policy, procedural and specification changes. Good change management practices will lead to faster adoption and ensure smooth transitions when changes occur. And in the construction industry, change is inevitable.

What is construction change management and how can you use it to effectively implement changes from change orders to company-wide changes and everything in between? Let’s take a closer look at the impact of change management on construction firms.

What is Construction Change Management?

Change management is a term that refers to the process and protocols involved in preparing a company’s personnel for upcoming changes and providing them with the support they need to implement the change.

In construction, this term is sometimes used to refer to the change management process where changes to a project's scope are assessed and approved. Construction change management is essential because changes can cost firms time, money, and client satisfaction if project changes are not managed effectively.

Some examples of instances where construction change management can improve processes include:

  • Mitigating architectural design errors

  • Incomplete information in engineering or design specifications

  • Limited coordination between the project team, general contractors, subcontractors, and asset owners

  • Poor project management that leads to costly rework

  • Ineffective logistics

  • Low-quality workmanship

  • Defective tools and materials

  • Financial setbacks

  • Legal and regulatory roadblocks

  • Changes to the project objectives

Construction change management defines the change management process and templates so that your project team can continue to run smoothly according to the client’s needs, even when changes are introduced.

Types of Change Management

There are a number of change management systems that provide different approaches to solving issues that naturally occur with change. Every industry faces unique struggles that require specialized techniques to manage changes and optimize operations. While there are some consistencies in the structure of change methodologies, the implementation of each will vary based on the type of change management required.

Five different types of change management will occur at various points during an organization’s journey:

Organizational change

Organizational change is a type of change that impacts everyone within an organization regardless of their position or leader level. These changes are usually rolled out from the top-down, with communication coming directly from the C-suite.

Some examples of organizational change include:

  • A business merges with or acquires another company

  • The HR rollout of new anti-racism or anti-harassment policies

  • Switching technology providers

  • Office relocation

Personnel change

Personnel changes can happen on a small scale such as when an individual leaves or joins a team, and on a large scale like when a company merges with another organization. Personnel changes often cause employees to ask questions about their job security, the chain of command, and responsibilities, so the impact can be far-reaching.

Here are some examples of personnel change:

  • An executive leader decides to step down

  • A lower-level employee is promoted to management

  • Someone is terminated or fired from a project

  • Employee layoffs

  • A team member passes away

Unplanned change

Unplanned change can be very disruptive without a good change management approach. Any change that occurs without planning for it, whether it's positive, negative, or neutral, could be considered unplanned change. For example:

  • Your network experiences a severe data breach

  • A natural disaster (think COVID-19) changes how your team will work

  • You hire a new team member after an impressive interview with a candidate, although your organization wasn’t planning to hire anyone for the rest of the quarter

Remedial change

Remedial changes occur as a response to an issue or problem within an organization. These changes are designed to offer additional support, remove toxic workplace culture practices, and create better policies before minor problems grow into much larger ones. Remedial change can include:

  • A team member consistently misses goals, so leadership implements a plan to improve department performance

  • Canceling the implementation of an expensive tool that no longer meets an organization's needs

  • Friction between a team member and their superior calls for termination of one or both individuals

Transformational change

Transformational change is the most rewarding but difficult change to implement. Transformational changes are meant to change how a company operates or how they serve customers. This type of change can be challenging to define. Planning and communication are vital for transformation changes such as:

  • The board of directors decides to restructure an organization's growth

  • A company’s cloud provider invests in AI-powered tools

  • Organizations turn to sustainable suppliers and external businesses for materials

  • A company chooses a strategic channel partner to expand into a new market

Each of these changes requires an appropriate change management approach that meets an organization's needs and customers. There are many different approaches to change management that companies can adopt, or they can create their custom approach.

How Software Can Help with Change Management in Construction

The construction industry has been notoriously slow to adopt tech tools to help firms be more effective. Factors such as a steep learning curve, lack of resources, and lack of expertise all hinder construction teams from seeing the benefits that software can bring to the table.

The medical software industry provides an excellent example for other slow adopters to follow. Unified platforms with tools for change management, communication, logistics, and engagement help medical teams work more effectively toward a common goal.

Change management in the construction industry is also complicated. Several different teams need to be orchestrated to accommodate the changes while keeping costs to a minimum and reducing friction between workers, clients, and stakeholders. On top of that, it usually requires up to 3 people to approve construction changes.

In addition to reducing the time it takes for project change orders to be approved, construction change management software can also help keep costs low, organize logistics, assign tasks to a team, and simplify other project management processes.

Here are some of the ways that good construction software can help manage change on most construction projects:

  • Build more effective change management policies for your organization

  • Create change order templates

  • Use automation to fill in templates automatically

  • Create a plan for future software implementation and adoption

  • Receive insightful feedback on tools, procedures, and training implementation

  • Improved tracking for managing change orders, measuring progress, and identifying roadblocks

  • Ensure employees and other involved parties have access to training and support

  • Maintain process compliance (local and federal laws), insurance compliance (driving the correct vehicles), and job-site compliance (safety and environmental awareness)

  • Assist project managers in minimizing cost overruns and disruptions to the entire project schedule created by changes

FAQs

What are the 5 key elements of successful change management?

Although there are several different construction change management approaches, there are five key elements that are critical to the success of any change management program:

  • The goal. Acknowledge the need for change and set a goal.

  • The team. Communicate and engage personnel in developing the change and establish a team.

  • The plan. Develop a plan to implement change processes.

  • The change. Implement the change according to plan.

  • The result. Evaluate the change and celebrate successes.

What are the 6 features of change management?

The six features of a good change management approach are:

  • Organizational design — Define new organizational structures, processes, and role changes that support the proposed changes.

  • Leadership alignment — Identify leaders that are critical to the project's success and align them according to your proposed change goals.

  • Stakeholder engagement — Identify the key stakeholders and how their influence can support the proposed changes.

  • Communication — Build awareness of upcoming changes by clearly communicating about the strategies that will support the proposed changes.

  • Readiness — Evaluate how ready stakeholders, employees, and leaders are to implement changes and engage them in ways that increase their readiness.

  • Training — Finally, assess the employee learning needs to support the upcoming changes and provide them with adequate training to improve ease of adoption.

Why change management is important in construction projects?

According to research conducted by the Construction Industry Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, there are many ways construction projects can benefit from effective change management practices. In addition to significant cost savings, construction firms that implement change management practices can also profit from increased efficiency.

Construction project schedules are more reliable with good project management and change processes, too. And ultimately, construction change management enhances the customer experience by creating a more streamlined process for planning, approving, and implementing changes.

Written By: Joe Demski

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