It happens, no matter how hard you have worked and planned, something goes wrong, something unforeseen happens and your project starts to go off the rails (off track). But that’s normal, the secret is to pay attention and to continually check on your projects progress because then you are aware of issues as they arise and can refocus your project accordingly.
Address Issues Immediately
The best way to address issues immediately is to have some guidelines built into the project when you check on the progress of everything. This will help you notice problems right away. Don’t ignore them; fix them when you see them, and check for them on a regular basis.
Keep an Open-Door Policy
If you have team members that you outsource to or employ, keep an open-door policy that allows for honesty. If you give people due dates that aren’t realistic for them, they should feel free to let you know. This will enable you to plan your projects better, which is why you should involve everyone in the planning process.
Identify the Problem
When something is going wrong, don’t panic. Figure out what is causing the problem and then work out what you can do to eliminate that issue. For example, if you find that you’re waiting longer than planned on other people, why? If you’re having issues with technology, is there something better you can use?
Adjust Your Plans
When something is going off the rails, you need to get back on track, but it may end up being a new track. Part of creating a plan is being willing to change it. Remember that the deliverables are what’s important about the plan, not necessarily how you get to the end; therefore adjusting may be necessary.
Review Your Resources
Are you using the right resources for the job, or are you trying to force what you already have to work when it’s not ideal? If you’re constantly jerry-rigging everything to make it work, there is probably an easier solution. If one team member is always late no matter what, maybe they’re the wrong team member.
Whether it’s your team, your customers, or a client, it’s imperative to always keep communicating. The more you communicate, the better you’ll understand what needs to be done and how to get to a finished product that everyone will be thrilled with.
Review Your Processes
Periodically during every project, take the time to review how everything is going. Did you change something that you didn’t note? Is the process working well? Are there bottlenecks that you didn’t consider? Each time you notice a problem and fix it, you’ll be making the next project even more efficient due to learning what works and what doesn’t work.
Change Things When Needed
When something is going wrong, remember that you don’t have to stick to what you decided when you first made the plan. You can adjust. The important part is that the deliverables get done on time and done well. The process is adjustable and changeable.
Variations to Contract
By continuously monitoring your project you should become aware whenever a variation to your original scope of work takes place. These variations should be noted, priced and given their own time line along with project impact details … ie … this is going to cost this, it will take an extra week to complete and we need approval by such and such otherwise it will impact other elements of the project causing further delays.
You may as well face the fact that sometimes things will get off track. In fact, most of the time they will. But if you’ve developed checkpoints within your project to check on progress, address issues immediately, and aren’t afraid to adjust your plans to make them more realistic, you’ll get through it and no one will be the wiser.