Help! My Project is Behind! by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC
Even the best managers have projects that fall off track. Project team members often have multiple job priorities. In addition, time estimates, particularly on new types of projects, are often wildly under estimated, leaving more work to do than can get done in the allotted time period. When you find a project off track, here are some ways to get it back on task.
1. Look for wiggle room in the schedule. While some tasks may have taken longer than others, causing the project schedule to fall behind, there may be upcoming tasks that can be completed in less time than allotted. It may be necessary to allocate more resources to these tasks, so these can be completed in a condensed time frame.
2. Examine the workload of the staff. If human resources are your problem, take a close look at the workload of team members. It may be necessary to remove other job tasks from these project members for a short period of time, so that they can focus more energy on the lagging project. Or, it may be necessary to choose additional or replacement team members who can help get the work done more quickly.
3. Make a commitment to staying focused. Sometimes, projects fall behind simply because not enough attention was paid to project status early in the timeline. More frequent meetings and updates from team members can help you get a handle on the project and keep it on track.
These same tools for getting a project back on track can be used from the beginning to keep projects from getting behind. Regular meetings ensure that, as a project manager, you know where your project stands at all times. Contingency plans, such as how work can be reallocated or how team members can be reassigned, can help you react to a small setback, keeping it from becoming a big one. The key to keeping a project on task is staying focused on its progress and potential problems every day.