While there is no such thing as a perfect project, effective project managers will always put a reasonable amount of wiggle room in the timeline to account for any problems. This padding is usually enough to deliver the project on time and within budget. Occasionally, the project will run the risk of missing the deadline no matter how well the project manager planned. In this case, the PM will have to take drastic measures in order to get the project back on track.
1. Determine the cause
If your deliverables are coming in late, the answer may not be as simple as “get person A to submit on time”. The project manager has to thoroughly investigate the cause of the delay; otherwise any solutions will be from the hip and may not address the real issue. Is the problem internal or external? Is the problem technical or human error? Are your procedures too inefficient, or are they not being followed at all?
The project manager doesn’t have to answer all of these questions himself, either. In fact, a solo assessment may even be misleading and based on false assumptions. Interviews and group discussions with stakeholders and team members could help expose the real issues.
2. Stop scope creep
Scope creep is one of the biggest and most common causes of project delays. It causes a radical reassignment of priorities and resources, which can derail momentum and hamper focus. The project team also has to waste time backtracking and review finished work to ensure that nothing is adversely affected by the new scope.
To avoid this, project managers will have to go back to the client/stakeholders and refuse any more unnecessary changes to the scope. Or, barring that, the client will have to sign off on a new timeline that accounts for the scope creep and be billed accordingly.
3. Parallel production
When a project team is pressed for time, it may be a good idea to start working on things in parallel. This is roughly equivalent to how chefs in a kitchen work: one chef chops up the vegetables while the other prepares the beef roast. The dish is then finished in half the time than if they had done it sequentially. Note that this tip only works if the tasks you’re working on aren’t dependent on each other (like cooking seasoning the meat before roasting it, for example).
4. Reallocate resources
Sometimes your project will slow down because of performance issues. The team member may be a chronic underperformer, for instance, or he may not be as skilled in his task as he is in others. Either way, it might be a good idea to shuffle team assignments. There are many ways you can do this. You could add in another team member or two to support the first, or you can have them swap roles. If the team member’s performance is becoming a serious issue, you may need to remove him entirely and bring in someone more suitable.