Detours, aberrations and remedies

To mark the the release of the second edition of “The Crazy PMPprep” (a novel about preparing for PMP and CAPM certification), we are publishing an excerpt from the book this week. This concerns Change Control. You witness a discussion between the (reluctant) project manager Henri and his patient and coach Peter Pomosch. The “Riemann” mentioned in passing is the director of the psychiatric clinic and initiator of the project “Concert performance with patients as musicians”.


“Why do we have to talk about changes now?” Henri asked.

“Because you are working on the parts of the scope that have to be approved afterwards and then serve as a basis for all subsequent adjustments. In most similar, and by that I mean “predictive” projects, it’s like this: no sooner do you think you’ve nailed down the scope than someone comes along and wants more or less – or everything different. If you’re not careful, a cute little project turns into an amorphous monster. And paying attention means recognising changes and creating transparency. That’s where the example of the navigation system helps us again,” Pomosch continued, “if you can remember that far. The PMBoK® says it is a process whereby modifications to documents, deliverables, or baselines associated with the project are identified, documented, approved, or rejected. Let’s say you want to change your route while you’re driving, you specify a new destination or an intermediate destination. So what role are you in then?”

“In the role of the driver,” Henri replied.

“I meant, of course, in the context of a project. There you are then the client. You give another instruction. In all likelihood your arrival time at your destination will change. After all, you are making a diversion. Do you already know your new arrival time when you enter it? Of course not. It has to be recalculated first. And the navigation system is basically the project. Based on your new destination, it calculates different ways to get there and, depending on the default settings, suggests alternatives or just one way. The shortest, the most economical, the fastest, depending on the setting. And then you have to decide which one you want.”

“You mean I have to recalculate every time Riemann changes his mind again?” asked Henri back, his brow furrowed. “That’s pretty time-consuming.”

“Under certain circumstances, yes. But think about the consequences if you, or rather the satnav, wouldn’t do that. The satnav thinks the route over the Alpine passes is the most beautiful, but your children throw up in the car because of all the bends.”

“I don’t have children,” Henri said.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s just an example. Then your wife or girlfriend will puke.”

“I’m single right now.”

“OK. Then the hitchhiker you picked up will puke. Yeah, I know. You don’t pick up hitchhikers.”

“Of course I pick up hitchhikers. What do you think I’m like?” Henri was indignant.

“Back to the example,” said Pomosch, rolling his eyes. Henri saw it. “So the satnav asks for confirmation. That’s what the project manager has to do. If possible, you should avoid all misunderstandings or ambiguities in this regard. Who likes to drive in a car full of vomit? Neither the driver nor the passenger. This is what is meant in the PMBoK® by approved or rejected.

After all, the driver might decide that he wants to get rid of the hitchhiker and then drive over the winding pass after all. In a convertible. Open. At 4 degrees. Without heating.”

“And what is meant by modifications to documents, deliverables, or baselines associated with the project?” asked Henri.

Deliverables in the case of the sat nav are, for example, the destination and your entered route options. Project documents in the case of the satnav could be, for example, the records of data on the route already travelled. Just like a tachograph. And baselines are all the approved and frozen plans that have to be adhered to. It doesn’t just have to be about time. You may also want to arrive at your destination in a cost-efficient way, i.e. you don’t want energy consumption to exceed a certain value. Basically, everything that has to be changed in the existing planning to meet your requirements for destination and route. And that happens during the entire journey, or rather during the entire project.”

“And if I stop for a moment so that the hitchhiker can finish throwing up, do I also have to get Riemann’s permission?”

“Of course not, as long as he doesn’t vomit for hours now. Small deviations are normal. Your job is to make up for it then.”

“And if I already know that I won’t get there on time because the guy won’t stop throwing up, do I have to issue a change request?”

“Not necessarily. After all, deviations are not bad per se. Without knowing about the deviation, you wouldn’t have any reason to do anything. If the navigation system adjusted the originally planned arrival time every time there was a delay, there would be no delay at all. To be more precise, the delay would only come into effect on arrival, for example if your band couldn’t start the concert because the instruments are in the car with you.”

“But the satnav doesn’t even know when the concert starts. I could have left an hour earlier, just to be on the safe side,” Henri interjected.

“Granted. Not all comparisons work. But if you are a project manager who doesn’t know when the concert starts, it fills me with little confidence,” Pomosch replied. “You may remember the difference between baselines and subsidiary plans. The baselines, i.e. Scope, Schedule und Cost are always under change control. For all other plans, it depends on the project. The Change Control Plan, part of the Project Management Plan, establishes the Change Control Board, documents the scope of its authority and describes how the change control system will be implemented – in your case the “board” being Riemann. And the description of how it is implemented also includes how to act in the event of a change and what elements need approval in the event of the change in the first place.”

“What a hassle!” groaned Henri.

“But it has to be, because otherwise you’re the one who’ll puke,” said Pomosch.

Original text: RGE
English translation: BCO


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