Managing Change Orders: 9 Strategies for Smoother Construction Projects

Change orders – just the mention of these can send shivers down the spine of any construction professional. These unexpected deviations from the original plan have the potential to wreak havoc on project schedules and budgets, leaving stakeholders scrambling to adapt.

In project management, minimizing change orders is not just desirable; it’s essential. After all, organizations meticulously craft budgets and schedules to ensure predictability and efficiency, only to have them disrupted by the unforeseen. 

There are strategies to tame the change order beast and steer your projects towards success.

1. Define the Project Scope Clearly

A lack of clarity in project scope is a breeding ground for change orders. Ensure that the project’s purpose, needs, and deliverables are crystal clear from the outset. Ambiguity breeds confusion, which in turn leads to change orders.

2. Provide Detailed Project Specifications

Incomplete or ambiguous specifications are fertile ground for change orders to flourish. Specify every aspect of the project, from materials required to implementation methods, leaving no room for interpretation or assumption.

3. Conduct Thorough Constructability Reviews

Before breaking ground, conduct detailed constructability reviews to assess buildability and biddability. Certified construction personnel should confirm that the project can be executed as designed, minimizing the risk of unforeseen challenges.

4. Foster Collaboration Across Disciplines

Break down silos and promote collaboration among project stakeholders. Ensure that plans, sequences, and specifications are coordinated across disciplines to avoid conflicts in the field that can lead to costly redesigns.

5. Establish a Robust Change Order Process

Define a clear and transparent change order process in your contract documents. From initiation to authorization, ensure that every step is outlined to prevent unauthorized changes and disputes that can derail your project.

6. Implement Stringent Quality Control Measures

Quality control is paramount in preventing change orders. Implement rigorous quality control processes across all project stages to catch issues early and mitigate the need for corrective actions later on.

7. Host Regular Progress Meetings

Regular progress meetings involving all project disciplines are invaluable for preempting potential issues. By bringing the right stakeholders to the table, you can identify and address problems before they escalate, keeping your project on track.

8. Enforce Subcontractor Compliance

Hold subcontractors accountable for meeting contract requirements and regulatory standards. Establish a robust compliance program to verify adherence to protocols and prevent delays that can trigger change orders.

9. Prioritize Effective Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of successful project management. Foster transparency, openness, and honesty among all stakeholders, ensuring that everyone is aligned with project goals and objectives.

Embracing Change for the Better

While change orders may seem like unwelcome disruptions, not all changes are detrimental. Some change orders can enhance project outcomes, accommodating evolving circumstances or adding value to the scope without incurring additional costs. By implementing these strategies, you can minimize unwanted change orders and navigate construction projects with greater confidence and efficiency.

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