Posted by: Craig Harding | November 4, 2009

How to Get Your Project Back on Track

How to Get Your Project Back on Track

 Your last project status highlighted several issues that the PROJECT MANAGER must address. Although the overall project progress is acceptable at this point, the technical work is lagging behind and there are strong indicators that this situation will continue unless some proactive changes are made now. Ten of the fourteen technical tasks scheduled to start within the first two weeks of the project did not get started. This was due to one group not finishing tasks so that another group could commence. You have resources scheduled to go on vacation in the coming weeks and the client has reported that system performance is unacceptable. What will you do as Project Manager?

An important aspect of project control is determining whether schedule variations require corrective action. The Project Manager must conduct a risk assessment of slipping tasks and make some decisions about how to change the plan to meet the target for implementation. This may mean identifying workarounds or rethinking priorities and assignments to accelerate the overall schedule. These decisions are part of the on-going requirement for the Project Manager to control the project. To do this, the Project Manager must know the exact status of tasks and Identify impediments to progress. Appropriate actions may include:

  • Reprioritizing tasks and changing task assignments to optimize the project schedule.
  • Procuring additional resources to keep the project on schedule.
  • Identifying performance issues and rectifying the situation through mentoring, coaching or other approved management processes.
  • Identifying and recommending reductions in scope
  • Initiating the change control process

When you need to get your Project Back on Track

As Project Manager, you must initiate action to get your project back on track soon as:

  • you determine that it is off-track, or
  • you discover that there is a strong likelihood of schedule slippage downstream.

As the scenario above has illustrated, the progress of one project group can obscure the lack of progress in others. This emphasizes the need to analyze and understand the plan at the task level and to track productivity and contribution at the individual resource level. This process is not specific to one phase, but is continuous throughout the project and involves ongoing planning and scheduling as well as controlling.

The Project Manager’s Role in Getting the Project Back on Track

When you detect a problem with the project you are responsible to:

  • Identify workload balancing changes that could be made to the plan to bring it back into alignment (e.g., reassignment of tasks or reprioritizing tasks).
  • Determine what resource changes to recommend (e.g., adding more or different client resources, employing 3rd party vendor when appropriate, bringing on more contract resources, etc.).
  • Prioritize your recommendations and escalate them for higher level decisions when appropriate (when it will affect cost, timeline or functionality). When you need to escalate, use the Change Control process specified in the project charter.

Getting the project back on track always falls to the responsibility of the Project Manager. A quick check list you can follow should consist of the following:

  • Identify when the project is going off track before irrecoverable time is lost.
  • Assess the potential impact if the situation is not corrected (do an impact analysis).
  • Identify possible changes to the plan that would bring the project back into alignment.
  • If the changes require additional budget, resources, or changes to the timeline or deliverables, initiate change control.
  • Obtain necessary approvals and implement the changes.
  • Update the project operating plan with the changes.





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