Half of project management is knowing how to solve problems. We need to be able to think fast and act appropriately in order to get things back on track.
Unfortunately, project managers don’t always come up with the right solutions. Maybe it’s performance under pressure; or maybe it’s acting on bad methodology, habits, or policy. Sometimes it’s a decision made by upper management, and not the project manager himself. Regardless of the source, these solutions make the situation worse, not better.
Taking Immediate Action
It’s important to act quickly in an emergency, but jumping in too fast just invites more mistakes. Speed and timeliness are two entirely different things. A knee-jerk response is almost always a bad idea. But taking stock of the situation and your options first, and then taking fast action, is the way to go.
Many projects (especially in the software/IT industry) run on an hourly clock, where clients “buy” a set number of hours. Sometimes, however, the project gets delayed and runs over the original estimate. When that happens, some teams prefer to keep working in order to get the project done, and inform the client after the fact. It keeps the project’s momentum going, and adds up to a lower total cost than if the team stopped to ask permission. This is most prevalent in a project’s final stages.
While some clients would have no problem with this, others wouldn’t be so understanding. First off, why did the project go overtime in the first place? And why wasn’t the client informed of that impending problem? Also, why did the project team not give the client a chance to review first before incurring additional charges? It’s nasty surprises like these that ruin a client-vendor relationship.
If your team is going to operate on a “no-work stoppage” policy, make sure the client is aware of this from the start. You also have to keep communications lines open with them so they can at least have timely updates.
Introducing New Technologies/Methods
So you’ve got a new project management tool or interesting methodology to try out. Great!
But don’t introduce it in mid-project. Everybody is stressed out enough already. Don’t add to it by making them learn a new system on top of all their other tasks. If your project management process is broken, do a band-aid solution and save the overhaul for the project post-mortem.
Adding More Team Members
There’s a joke that goes “nine women can’t make a baby in a month,” and it applies especially to project management. Throwing more team members into a project won’t necessarily make it go any faster. In fact, it will probably slow things down even more.
Think about it: this new personal will have to be trained and oriented. And for that, you’ll need to take someone away from their work to be their mentor. This mentor will have to babysit them and check the quality of their work long after the training is done. And the more complex the project, the longer it’s going to take.
Efficient? Not really.
Switching Out Teams
A project has to be in real dire straits for you to have to switch out teams. The problems are the same as the above point, except now you’re doing it for everyone on the team. And chances are, the original team won’t stick around to help the new team assimilate faster (and besides, if they were doing such a bad job in the first place, why are you letting them tell you what to do?)
There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and while the solutions I’ve described above generally have more negative points than positives, there will be situations where these actions will be appropriate. The key is to carefully consider your options first before deciding on this course of action, and being fully aware of the drawbacks.
Image credit, Flickr, Peter Zoon