Getting Your Project Back on Track

(Even when you’re in the middle of a crisis)

Most of us have been the leader or a co-leader of a big project at some time.

Perhaps you can also relate to this story, as unfortunately, sometimes the best laid plans go awry.

As I was working with one of my clients, the topic came up of how to get a key project back on track and how to keep it there.

I have found that it is helpful to plan ahead… to have a process that you can tap into that will get you back on track in the fastest, and most efficient manner.

Trying to create a process when you’re in the middle of a crisis though is a little like trying to remember you’re there to drain the swamp – while up to your neck in alligators, – so here are a few proactive tips:

Start by understanding where you are… by digging into the details:

  • Where is my project off-track and what are the issues?
    Scheduling? Money? Resources? A change in customer requirements?
  • What are the contributing factors to being off-track?
  • Has the business environment changed?
  • Are there internal or external factors that are having a negative impact?
  • Has support for the project declined?
  • Are there key people resources who have left or been reassigned?

The next step is to revisit the original or latest version of the plan:

  • What were the pain points that you were aiming to solve?
  • What were the project objectives? Desired outcomes?
  • Are the key drivers of the project still relevant?
  • Who were/are the key stakeholders, and how would a delay impact them?

Update your current state, create a revised plan, and share appropriately:

  • What has already been done? What is still to be done?
  • What are the gaps, how do we close them and what is the revised timeline?
  • Who is to do it?
  • Anticipate potential obstacles and brainstorm how will you proactively plan to avoid them?
  • What needs to be communicated and with whom?

Lastly, closely monitor the performance of the project and adjust in real-time in order to maintain credibility and stay on-track:

  • Frequently track performance against the plan. Have systems in place to make it easier.
  • Promptly address any issues that arise.
  • Share what information appropriate parties need to know, and in a timely fashion.
  • Lean toward overcommunication.
  • Acknowledge good performance, encourage collaboration, and recognize progress.
  • Leverage your skills. This is a time when you need to be a manager who is not only attending to the details while being a leader, but one who keeps the goals visible, inspires and encourages…
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