Meeting project deadlines is one of the biggest challenges most project managers have to deal with. However well a project is planned, delays are bound to creep up more often than not.
Unfortunately, such delays come with a cost attached to it. For starters, the reputation of the company with the clients is compromised. You may also need to hire more help, which works against your budget. In addition, a delay in one project can cause delays in subsequent projects or even worse, project failure.
However, knowing how best to handle project delays can go a long way to ensure you experience fewer or no consequences. Here are a few ways to best approach the situation.
1. Don’t give delays any room to manifest
The best way to handle a problem is to avoid it in the first place. How can you avoid project delays?
· Equip your team with the necessary skills- If your team is not trained on project and time management skills, they most likely will fall through the cracks and put deadlines at a risk. Consider investing in time management courses as proper time management is highly important for your staff. That way, they will be skilled on how to prioritize tasks and manage their time better.
· Involve the right people in the planning- The people who will be actively involved in the project are best positioned to estimate the amount of time they can take on particular tasks. Rather than setting timelines yourself, use their insights to draw up a schedule.
· Gather as much information as you can on the onset so that you are well prepared. Seek to find out if there are tasks with more likelihood of delay. Are there areas that might pose some challenges? How well do you handle them to make it easier? Are you dealing with vendors known for missing timelines? What can you do about them? Having such information first hand will help you in putting up a schedule that is realistic.
· Ensure that you have the right resources. If you are working on a tight budget, determine how best to make the most out of it. In addition, check whether you have enough office space, computers, software, office supplies and the like. If they are not available, will they be available by the time you’ll need them?
2. Have your eyes keenly on the project
Avoiding delays is a good approach. However, there are unforeseen uncertainties that can get you off guard. In this case, you want to catch the delay as soon as it occurs to avoid further problems.
Ensure that you are staying on top of the project schedule at all times. Check in with your team to keep tabs on the progress. That way, any challenge or missed timeline will not bypass you.
3. Determine how to move forward
Once you have realized a delay, it is good for you and your team to go back to the drawing board to discuss how to proceed from that point onwards. Analyze the damage. How far back has the delay set the project? Can you still get on schedule? Do you need additional help or more resources? Is the budget affected?
Answering such questions can help you decide on the best course of action to mitigate the situation. It is also good to review individual tasks at this point. Prioritize the most important ones and set new deadlines. If you feel that the project can still be presentable without some tasks, you can cut them out as well.
4. Communicate it to others involved
In addition to informing your team about the delay, it is important to communicate the same to everyone else involved-the client and vendors. A delayed project takes up time for subsequent projects; you might need to expedite them in order to stay on schedule. In this case, you might need a vendor to fast track your deliveries to avoid further delays.
On the other hand, you stand a better chance of saving your reputation with the client if you are honest and prompt in telling him about the delay. They will get the reassurance that you are on top of things and that everything will turn out okay.
Project delays can be frustrating. However, beating yourself up can only make things worse. Accept that such situations happen and it is part of the journey for any business. The earlier you find a course of action the less the damage will be.
Do not forget about other projects while dealing with a project delay. Be vigilant of upcoming deadlines to avoid being caught up in the same mess again.
Written by Nora Price