Help! My Project is Falling off the Rails

It’s all too common a tale. Your project was going well then something happened… a vendor let you down with a delivery date, there were problems around commissioning or testing, or the end product, whatever it is, simply does not work. This bump in the road may not always be the fatalistic thing it appears to be at the time. In fact if your project has gone well and you’ve zoomed though the various phases it may be the perfect time for some backwards and forwards looking assessment. If your project is a long one, through many months or even years, I might be bold enough to even suggest you may get an better end result for the chance to stop for a moment and take stock.

How can that be? Well, you have to fix the problem sure, but a savvy PM will be doing some other activities here too:

  • Of course rectify the issue… speak to your vender, organise a technical specialist, re-test. A no-brainer really but in parallel to that review your schedule. In my view schedule management is the number one tool of your trade as a PM. What does it tell you? Is this a critical path issue? If so can you benefit in some way from the delay?
  • Ask yourself what you know now about the impact of this project that you didn’t know at the beginning. Under no circumstances should you be looking to increase the scope at this point (unless the client/sponsor states there is an obvious need) but you can use this new knowledge in your change management plan if you haven’t already. Are there other projects in the organisation that are now underway that have a similar characteristics or audience, can you share resources along the way?
  • Write or talk face to face with your sponsor about the nature of the problem and the impact of the delay. Mary organisations will have a formal mechanism or project management methodology for this but perhaps surprisingly many don’t. The importance of communicating shouldn’t be overlooked in the panic to get back on track. It also doesn’t hurt to include any additional value you may be able to add because of the delay.
  • Ensure there are no surprises to any of your stakeholders including end users. Again, where there is a formal project control structure this may be taken care of. Where there isn’t it can solely be the job of the PM to ensure all involved understand what’s happened.

Often a well managed project that has incurred some delays will not be seen as a project failure. Perceptions of project failure arise when stakeholders don’t know what is happening or why or what the impact and cost will be.

In a nutshell, communicate often and well. Your project will be back on track in no time and crucially, seen as a success.

This is a guest post from author Louise Gardner of http://www.pledgeconsulting.com.au/ .

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