Unforeseen project complexity, a variation in the construction project’s design, inaccurate estimates: as much as the most experienced of project managers plans out a construction project, there are always events that happen which necessitate changing the scope or timeframe.
Whether your project is a victim of scope creep or you’ve just been thrown off scope, knowing how to manage a change in scope efficiently can help you make the most of a difficult situation. With a little foresight, you’ll be able to handle an accident, bad weather, or unavailable supplies with aplomb. Also, these types of scope-affecting issues will be low-impact for your project, instead of catastrophic events.
Let’s talk about the most effective ways to manage change orders for your construction project.
What Is a Change Order?
We can define the scope of your project as ‘the work that must be accomplished to deliver a product with agreed-upon features.’ As this is the case, the final result of your project will dictate the scope, including all expectations regarding the length of your project.
When anything happens that causes a change to either your project’s schedule or deliverable, you should take care to document the reason for (and nature of) the change. One document that allows you to accomplish this is a change order. This document details all of the information pertinent to the change; for example, updates in scope, site conditions, designs, and schedule.
Your change order can also include guidelines regarding the execution of the change order itself. It may seem redundant, or like overkill, particularly in the case of a small or unavoidable change. However, having everything written out will protect you and your team from liability. It may also protect your payment at the end of your project.
A change order should include the following information:
- The contract number
- Contact information for the project owner and the contractor
- The name of the project
- A specific change order number, for later reference.
How to Manage Changing Scope or Timeframes Mid-Project
Suddenly having different expectations and deadlines thrust upon you is enough to make any project manager throw their hands in the air – yet your clients will expect you to handle all of the evolving details. While every project (and project change) will require specific managing and a deft hand, the following practices should help:
Insist upon detailed documentation.
For the sake of your team and your client, having clearly-defined (updated) expectations can help salve future frustrations before they even occur.
Involve the client in discussions regarding the change.
If the client understands what they’re asking for or the stress that you’re under, they’ll be more understanding of any negative repercussions – such as an extended project schedule – of changes in scope. With a clear knowledge of the complexity of changing a project, too, a client may be less likely to change their minds more than once.
Send the client regular updates of your work.
If you weren’t doing this prior to the change, now’s a good time to start. This may seem like extra work, but it will reduce the chances that you’ll have to redo work later on in the project.
Raise concerns immediately.
You’re the expert; if you see that a change in scope will have adverse downstream consequences, saying it sooner rather than later is best for all concerned.
Brainstorm alternatives and safety measures against future changes, and write them into your change order or contract.
Ideally, you want to change your project as few times as possible. Think about anything that might affect your project’s on-time completion in the future – more bad weather, an out-of-stock material, an accident by your crew – and consider mentioning smart substitutions or other options in the documentation. That way, the next time you encounter a scope-affecting wrinkle in your project, you won’t have to deal with all of the extra paperwork.
For a trustworthy, hard-working contractor, look no further than Peak Steel Contractors to manage your next project. From initial structural design through to your completed project, we’ll be there for you.
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