The rollercoaster of project management can get demanding– specifically when you’re working on a project that has actually taken an unexpected turn for Doomsville. (And occasionally, it’s what’s being stated around the office that’s the telltale sign your project’s in trouble.) Here, we look at 5 ways to draw your project back from the brink of disaster– or prevent it the next time around.
1. Sign of trouble: “Exactly what problem are we trying to resolve below?”
Midway with any project, hearing this problem must set off a reassessment. It’s time to ask some tough truthful problems, like: Exactly how has the project diverted away from its initial objectives? What have you attained so far? Is it enough that you still can accomplish at least some of the objectives? Is it best to stop now or modify the project?

You know the project most intimately, so try to step back and look at the big picture with that knowledge of the details. Separate the consequences on your own career (it’s tough) from the finest path for the project. If you’re convinced the project can succeed, make a powerful argument to clarify objectives and double-down on completing the project. This experience need not be a personal disaster, but how you finish the project can have broad implications.
2. Indicator of trouble: “Failure is not an option.”
Of course it is. Projects are risky– and you wish to accept the possibility of failure so that your team develops abilities in acknowledging indications of trouble and then reacting to issues as they present themselves. The trick, as Liquid Planner guest blogger Susanne Madsen notes, is to fail productively: “It’s OK to experiment and to fail– in fact it’s necessary at times. How else can we discover that ingenious new solution to our client’s problem?”.

Failure and mistakes can be productive as long as they propel organizations closer to the end goal. As Madsen states, the risk depends on the “demand for perfection, smooth execution and certainty” that leads individuals to “pick the safe alternative which provides them quick wins and quick outcomes.”.
3. Sign of trouble: “We need to take this in a whole new direction.”
This screams scope creep– or a project that’s grown out of its original goals, so address the situation directly. Sometimes, projects rewrite themselves as they get underway and do need to be re-assessed. If this happens, figure out what you need in order to change direction, declare the updated goals and get everyone on board. Recognize the resources you have and the ones you’ll need to move forward. Then, reassess– and realign– stakeholder expectations. And lastly, take a lesson from # 2– and learn from where the original project plan failed. You don’t want to make that mistake a second time in a row.
4. Sign of trouble: “You’re over budget plan.”
It’s time for a mid-course correction, and it needs to happen soon. First, figure out how you got into this budget mess. Second, identify how to fix it going forward. Third, go to the Guardians of Your Budgets (and your boss) with an improved plan for finishing the project either within the original spending plan or with a button-down case for what the additional funds will yield. Fourth, pick up from the very first 3 steps so next time you can stay within budget– or set a more reasonable budget.
5. Sign of trouble: “You’re way behind schedule.”
Start by assessing why you’re late: Were key people pulled away from your project? Was the task more difficult than expected? Then devise a plan that goes beyond throwing more bodies at the problem. For instance, get more time for your team from key producers. Prioritize requires and scale back on objectives. See if you can get more time from key manufacturers on your team. Regrettably, working faster or harder (even more hours) usually produces more mistakes then getting you closer to your goal. The key below is to be flexible and know exactly how to adjust when you miss the first milestone, since that’s when you’re headed off track. Also, utilize project management software that signals you when you’re falling behind schedule before it’s far too late.

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