Need to get a project back on track? Take the right steps

A written note "Take action, make things happen!" illustrating what it takes to get a late project back on track

So often we’ve heard of projects that are late, yet the project development teams report the status as “green”. Whether it’s because some teams hope that “positive thinking” will somehow magically get the project back on track. Or they’re afraid of project escalation. Or because turning the project status to orange will require that they identify the root causes of the delay and find answers they may not have. Whatever the reason, ignoring the issue is never the right solution.

Long-term and innovative projects in particular are bound to face challenges in the course of development. Successful companies are not necessarily the ones that manage to anticipate and prevent all problems, but those who are agile when issues arise, who identify root causes, and, most importantly, are smart about finding ways to overcome difficulties.

There are 5 key steps to getting late projects back on track.

  • Get a clear, holistic view of the project status

You’ve identified that a project is late. That’s a good place to start. To move forward, you need a clear, holistic and realistic view of the project. Which areas are on track and which ones are behind?

  • Thoroughly understand road blocks and issues and their root causes

In which areas is the project late? What caused the delays in these areas? The root causes can be diverse – not understanding the business needs, a change in requirements in the course of the project, quality issues with regard to execution, lack of resources, unexpected technical challenges, etc. It’s critical to realistically assess the sources of the problems. It is not a matter of blaming anyone or anything, but of understanding the situation in order to turn it around. Keep in mind that only if you can identify the correct root causes, can you define the correct solutions.

  • Identify the right solution to the problem

Now that you’re clear on the issue(s), you can work with your teams to define possible solutions. For each suggestion, list the pros and the cons and requirements, then agree on the best path forward. While your solution might not solve 100% of the issues, solving 80% may be a good compromise.

  • Clearly define the next steps

Now that you have a plan, take the time to assess exactly what’s needed to make it a success. In particular, you’ll need to ensure that the proper resources, processes and tools are made available in the short term.

  • Monitor the progress of the project daily or weekly

To be truly efficient, monitor the project daily to see that it’s getting back on track. Surprises are often bad surprises, so you will want ensure that everything’s going smoothly, and promptly identify anything that could send the project off the rails again.


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