Making changes without destroying the ordered state
When you have to work with badly organised or inefficient set-ups, whether in the world around you (offices, bookcases…) on paper (files, post-it notes, …) or with plans (events, schedules, …) you can spend just as much time trying to deal with the problems caused by the chaotic mess as you would actually using it.
Once you are organised, whether files, items or plans, then Change control is a way of managing changes to your nicely organised system so that it does not revert back to chaos.
If you need to sort out the chaos to start with, then go to: Chaos main menu
If you are looking to organise your own ideas, then first go to: Managing your ideas and plans
This is based upon my experience gained in engineering, business management and charity work.
Keeping it tidy
Once you have completed the organisation task and everything is now how you want it to be, you need to be able to keep it that way. If future changes can be made to it (more books added to a bookcase, extra events to be planned in, …), it becomes important to have some method of controlling any further changes to ensure that it does not revert back to a chaotic state.
Change control is the method used to control future changes to any organised system that you want to keep tidy – it keeps track of every item and handles any changes. One well known example of a change control system is the library ISBN book referencing system that allow commonality to be maintained across the world, with a new book being assigned its own unique number and the database updated with that information.
Your own system
However it is usually the case that your own change control requirements are unique to your own system and so a bespoke method must be designed. How to identify a change control method for your own needs is covered here, considering the type of change control that is required and how to put it into practice.
Aspects of Change Control
A Change Control system requires a number of considerations that need to be thought through before the system is designed and put into practice. These are considered below
How large is the subject that requires the Change Control?
A larger system will require more change control than a smaller one. A system with two hundred items will require more change tracking of information relating to it than one containing only six
For example a warehouse may contain two hundred items; each item will have information that would include a serial number, what it contents are, where it is located in the warehouse, and so on … You will need this amount of information to differentiate between them and find them
If you have six parcels sitting on the windowsill next to your desk you would not need the information on where to find them, nor maybe what they contain or who put them there…
How complex is the subject?
Does the target consist of more than one type of item, if so then how many different types are there and how closely related are they? If the items are not closely related then you may need to consider different types of Change Control.
For example a warehouse may stock a range of items such as clothing, shoes and bags of wheat. Different information will need to be recorded for the wheat such as the ‘best before’ date, and will need a change control system based on that information. Whereas shoes and clothing will have a lot in common (size, male/female/child…) and may be able to use and share the same method of Change Control.
How many types of changes can be made to the subject?
A system that has many ways of being updated will require good Change Control management. If an item in that system has different types of information relating to it, then you will need some method of managing and cross-referencing between the different information for an item.
For example the information to be updated relating to a large container of wheat can include its location and how much wheat it currently contains. Both of these are required to be kept up to date and capable of being cross-referenced – Otherwise you may spend an hour searching for an empty container.
How ‘busy’ is it likely to be?
Will it be accessed many times a day? how often is it likely to be updated? (frequently, once a day, once a month, …). Your system will need to be able to cope with the potential frequency of access to it.
For example a storage room may have items removed from it many times a day, but only receives new stock on a daily basis first thing in the morning. In this example the configuration control for ‘out’ will need to be more comprehensive than the one for ‘in’ – the one for ‘out’ may need to have a ‘when did it go out’ time information, as part of its record keeping.
How many people will interact with it?
Will it be restricted access to a few individuals or will anyone be able to have access to it any time they want?
For example the stock warehouse may have several warehouse workers who will fetch the items requested, but only the warehouse manager can accept items. A system for removing stock will be used (and updated) by more people than the one for adding stock.
Change control Scenario
The following scenario is used to help identify the Change Control requirements, it is based on files in an archive:
You have a filing system of 120 files, each file containing 3 distinct types of information, 1 type of information cannot be modified (its serial number) but the other 2 types can be modified (its contents and the places where the file is in use).
15 people have access to these files and can make changes to them, but any changes can only be approved by 1 person when the database is required to be updated.
A Database is a term common in computers for a place used for archiving and storing files, this term will be used in this example. A filing cabinet performs the same function with paper.
If you want to learn more about databases then go to Managing your ideas
The Change Control database – basic settings
Your database will need to include information such as:
- Details on the files – each files serial number together with the file contents and the list of places where that file is used
- Change control information – such as dates and version numbers – relating to each file
- Details of the people who can use the system – those who can modify the files and the person who can approve the changes.
Details of both the files and the people who can use it will need to exist in the Change Control database – every file will have its own space within the database that will include space for its associated static details to be recorded with it (its serial number).
Every file will also need to have the dynamic information recorded with it. Since this information can be changed, the database will need to be designed to accommodate the potential changes. Methods on doing this are not covered in detail here, but two common approaches can be to either replace the file or to update the existing one.
Alongside this file information you will need the change control information for each file. This information will need to show who has done what to it and when. It will also need to show its current status and relationship with the people who have access to it, for example if a file is being updated by someone then the database should contain the information of the person that is doing the update. Another example is if a file has been updated but is awaiting approval, the database should show this ‘awaiting approval’ status for the file and, in this instance, the name of the person that the file is with will be the person who is responsible for approving them.
Once you have identified the Change Control elements that need to be built into the design, you will need to identify how all of this information can be actually be brought together under the management of one Change Control system and what tools can be used to implement it.
This section suggests some of the common types of configuration control databases and when they may be used, they are just simple examples for explaining.
Spreadsheet are ideal when there is a lot of short pieces of information to be recorded and kept track of. It is good for being able to look at the information from different requirements
Spreadsheet example: You have a small lending library in your club house and you want to keep track of the books that you have so that people can see what books there are without actually going to the club house first. Details to be recorded on the spreadsheet could include:
- The title of the book
- The topic of the book
- The author of the book
People who want to borrow a book may want to search for a book by title, by topic, or by author. A spreadsheet can be used to group the books into the searches required by the user quickly and efficiently
Log books (paper)
Log books are useful for a configuration control system that is time-based in its requirements, such as keeping a record of when an event occurs.
Log book example: you have 10 keys that are kept in one place but can be borrowed when required. A log book could by used to keep track of when a person borrows one of the keys, they would put in details of
- Who is borrowing the key (their name)
- Which key they have borrowed
- When it was borrowed
- When it has been returned
Make sure everyone knows how to use the change control system and follows it
- Ensure that you have defined a good method of Change Control for your newly organised item otherwise chaos will return!
- Spend time identifying every aspect of an item that can possibly have changes applied to it.
- Find a Change Control database that will be suitable for your requirements
Jenny Maryl ~ Inspiring the Imagination ~ Contact Me