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How to Adapt to Customers Changing Their Minds

Apr 14, 2017
By: Mark Stevens


How often has this scenario played out in your job shop: you invest a considerable amount of time and effort into a project based on a customer’s direction only to have him change his mind after the fact. You find yourself back at square one—and usually pretty frustrated.

That’s the reality of working with and for people: change is inevitable. Instead of getting frustrated, focus your energy on understanding why change happens and how you can positively adapt to it.

Why Do People Make Project Changes?
When you’re working on a project that is eventually re-thought, it may feel as though the decision to change is arbitrary. However, there’s usually an underlying reason:

  • Missed requirement(s). Stakeholders may be so familiar with the product they have or are requesting that, at the outset of the project, they inadvertently overlooked a feature.
  • Defect. A bug may evidence itself, and its fix needs to be looped into the project requirements.
  • Misunderstanding of need. It’s not uncommon to present stakeholders with your work in progress only to have them realize what they asked for and what they actually need are two different things. 
  • Politics. Office politics play a role in decision making. When power shifts between stakeholders or in the larger organization, so do project priorities, and changes in requirements often ensue.
  • Marketplace adjustment. A project may be reworked if a competitor becomes first to market with a similar product that offers more features and benefits than that of your stakeholder.
  • Regulations. If legislation governs some aspects of the project, modifications to the law may dictate changes to, or the addition/deletion of, certain features.

How to Handle Change
You have to adapt to project changes whether or not you know the logic behind them. Cooler heads prevail, especially when you have a plan in place:

  • Have a highly developed communication system. Don’t underestimate the power of smart company communications and a plan to execute it consistently. The more people know, the more likely they are to feel part of the team and its decisions, and the better equipped they are to make those decisions. Simply “winging it” won’t do. Have a written communications plan that details best practices around the type, frequency, forms, recipients, tone, breadth, content, and how feedback is handled.
  • Maintain an agile mindset. Agile business practices are increasingly popular because they are based on short work iterations that take the natural evolution of project requirements and continuous feedback loops into account. Adopting this same philosophy to your mindset aligns your internal expectations with the need for and impact of change when it occurs. You are then better positioned for proactivity rather than reactivity.
  • Make scheduling a priority. Scheduling in a job shop presents challenges in and of itself. Accommodating customer redirection can easily throw production off track. Implementing some scheduling best practices will help ensure your shop has the built-in fluidity to handle changes.

The only constant is change, and a job shop that is prepared to handle it will continue to succeed. Reach out to one of our manufacturing specialists today to discuss strategies and next steps.



Mark Stevens
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