My current position has me reporting to several project managers on a regular basis. In general, they all are very responsive to when I inform them that there are project issues that are beyond the original scope and we need to request a change order.

However, one of my project managers is also the company president. Yesterday, he handed me billings associated with two projects (Project A and Project B) that I'm working on that appear to be behind budget. Project A was behind budget in the past, but is actually fine right now. However, the budget for Project B is pretty well blown right now. I knew this was the case as I'd informed him of the issues on both Projects back in October and have consistently kept him apprised of the issues since then.

In light of the identified issues, I asked that change orders be requested on both of these projects. During conference calls for each project, he explained the issues to the clients and requested the change order and in both cases was declined. He more or less shrugged and told me to figure it out.

Given that it's relatively easy for me to interact with the client on Project A, I informed my PM that I would meet with him personally, did so, and got him to agree to the change order. When I informed my PM, he was astonished and could not fathom how I did this. The truth is, I don't think I did anything special other than request a face to face, brought plans, and explained the issues in a manner that helped him to understand things in a way that can't be appreciated in a phone call.

The client for Project B is much more difficult to speak with and in general is never met with directly, but rather through an intermediary. Furthermore, I am under the impression that were I to request a meeting with him, it might be insulting since I'm not the person that he dealt with originally (our company president).

Our firm is not too large, there's probably about 7 project managers, so the sample size is pretty small. To my knowledge, every one of them will be aggressive in pursuing justifiable change orders from our private clients including, but not limited to stopping work on projects, withholding work product, and any other measures except lawsuit (it's bad for our reputation in the area).

I think the issue on this stems from our company president have a long history doing work in the public sector where change orders are regularly nigh impossible to request. He may also be concerned about our overall image in the region as being an affordable service provider. While those are understandable concerns for him, I get the impression from him that he wants me to work Project B off the clock to keep billings from getting any higher simply because he can't insist on a change order.

How can I make it clear to him that this project needs a change order and he needs to pursue it aggressively?


Apply an Agile mindset instead of a Waterfall mindset.

Rather than delivering a product that is 100% feature complete at the cost of being over budget and late, deliver a Minimum Viable Product that is delivered on time and on budget. That is, instead of extending the time and budget to include everything, start cutting the less important features instead.

You simply need to get the customer to agree to what features are going to be cut- most often, this is done through MoSCoW (Must have/Should have/Could have/Won’t have).

  • I don't think that this is something that could work for this specific scenario as the change order is necessary to get a minimum viable product, but I think this mindset may be helpful to me in the future. So I thank you for the idea. – Pyrotechnical Feb 28 '20 at 2:09

You are already doing a really good job explaining why the change orders are a good idea.

  1. You've presented a good business case for both change orders, to your company.
  2. You've demonstrated an excellent way to work with a customer to get a change order. Win, win.

But you have a difficult customer, and a CEO who doesn't want to ask for a change order. You probably cannot do anything to induce either of them to see things differently. An Army captain might say, "getting a change order is above my pay grade."

What CAN you do? Be as transparent as you can about your progress on the project with your co-workers. "I estimate we'll take six extra weeks and $5000 extra in costs beyond the schedule and budget." You can ask for advice about how to proceed.

Transparency is good. Why? It shows professionalism on your part. It lets the CEO and sales people set the customer's expectations. And, it may figure into a decision at your company to pass up the next opportunity to do something for this unprofitable and difficult customer.

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