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How to Get Your Project Back on Track When Things Go Wrong

Project failure rates may be larger than you expected - especially in the tech industry, where IoT projects fail at a massive 75% with every three out of four projects never making it


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Even the most experienced project managers will sometimes find themselves scrambling to manage projects that end up missing deadlines, going over budget, and producing results that the client isn’t thrilled about. But, the difference between being a good project manager and a great project manager lies in your ability to get a project back on track when things don’t go to plan.

Project failure rates may be larger than you expected – especially in the tech industry, where IoT projects fail at a massive 75% with every three out of four projects never making it. For project managers, the daily reality of their role includes quickly turning the unexpected around and dealing with doing damage control as efficiently as possible. You need to know what to do and be confident when it comes to realigning your teams and handling any difficult conversations that need to be had when things don’t go as expected. The good news is that there are several useful, efficient strategies that you can use to get any project back on track as quickly as possible.

Focus On The Small Stuff:

Just as every desert starts with one tiny, single grain of sand – every project is made up of smaller pieces that can often seem insignificant on their own but can actually have a much larger impact than you realize. All it takes is one meeting, task, decision, or even a conversation for a project to end up going in an entirely different direction to what was planned. So, before you look at the big picture and try to fix the entire project, it’s a wise idea to actually start sweating the small stuff for once and get a closer look at those finer, smaller details. It’s not unusual to track a big problem right back to its origins as something that actually started off quite small and unnoticeable.

As soon as you see little problems coming up, correcting them should be done immediately. In order to do this efficiently, it’s crucial that you are able to track your project. Compile as much information about resources as you can, including your budget, time, team members, and any tools that you use for the project.

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Implement An Efficient Project Management System:

If things are going off track and you’re only finding out why much further down the line, then you probably already know that you’re going to be losing more time than you probably need to when it comes to putting things right and getting your project headed back in the right direction. In order to minimize the risk of this happening, it’s a wise idea to implement an efficient project management system. Good examples include agile project management methodologies such as Kanban and Scrum. If this is something you’d like to start doing, Kanbanize have informative breakdowns of the tasks, themes, and benefits involved with each method on their website.

These methodologies allow your project management team to work in small increments, with regular quality checks to ensure that everything is progressing as it should. As a result, any potential issues can often be caught much quicker compared with using traditional methods, allowing you and your team to correct mistakes and avoid any potential future catastrophes.

Shift your focus back to needs and musts:

If your project is going off-piste due to missed deadlines and overspending on budgets, then it might be time to ask yourself some uncomfortable questions. For example, is this occurring because you, your team or even your client is focusing too heavily on the ‘nice to haves’, rather than on what the project needs in order to succeed? if somebody is saying ‘yes’ to every single new idea, feature, upgrade, extension or add-on that becomes available, then there’s a high chance this is why the project isn’t quite going to plan.

All projects come with must-haves and nice-to-haves, and at some point, it’s important to make sure that a line is drawn. Get together with your client to work out a prioritization technique that works well for everybody involved, and ensures that the aspects that are absolutely critical for the successful completion of the project are right at the top of the list. This is another area where you can incorporate some Agile methodologies, such as Kanban, into your practice. Kanban, in particular, is a method that is designed to limit the amount of work in progress and ensure that all tasks are prioritized correctly. Transparency is key and this is created using a visual task board with cards that are allocated to each task and changed or moved across the board as the different progress points are reached. You can create a physical Kanban board or use digital software such as Kanbanize.

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Position yourself for success with the right tools and techniques:

Finally, once you have determined the cause of your project falling behind, bear in mind that the same approach that steered it off track the first time is probably going to have the same effect all over again. So, it’s important that you get a clear picture of the project so that you can spot any holes in the tools and techniques that you are using.

There’s no denying that project management is often a game of trial and error. But you can keep this to a minimum by asking yourself some important questions before you come up with a new plan to make sure that the project gets – and stays – back on track. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have realistic expectations?

Projects can be full of assumptions and an issue with this tends to be rooted in the initial planning phase of your project when requirements are gathered. If you need to, schedule a meeting with the client so that you can be assured of what they are looking for.

  • Is communication working?

Not having a proper communications plan in place can quickly send a project off the rails. A strong communication plan will work wonders for the relationships between yourself, your client, and your project management team.

  • Are your estimates correct?

It’s worth revisiting your estimates and budget to make sure that they are correct and realistic before you proceed further, especially if the issues are predominantly with spending.

All projects have the potential to go off track, but with these strategies, you can put things back in the right direction as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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