Every project is at risk of things going wrong and, in fact, you can count yourself very lucky if you get to the end without any major problems along the way. Most projects come across something unexpected and unpleasant at some point and it is how this is dealt with which largely defines the success or otherwise of the work done.
If it looks as though disaster is going to strike at some point then here are a few tips for averting it.
1. See the Problem Ahead of Time
A really good project manager will have a comprehensive list of risks and issues which they keep on top of all the time. By doing this they know the likelihood of any one of the risks turning into an issue and endangering the whole project.
2. Deal With It
Once you know that something is wrong the first thing you need to do is make up your mind to deal with it. The issue isn’t going to go away on its own so you need to make plans to sort it out no matter whether you want to or not.
3. Use the Necessary Resources
If the problem you have encountered means that you need to ask for more resources then that is what needs to be done. This doesn’t mean just throwing people at the issue but it does mean thinking about what you need to get it back on track again.
4. Adjust Your Estimates
The estimates you made at the start of the project don’t have to be set in stone. You should be looking to hone these as you go on and learn more about the subject. This means that you should always be looking at the most accurate and up to date figures possible, rather than relying on something which is no longer relevant and potentially misleading.
5. Trust Your Instinct
Detailed analysis work is often necessary but a project manager’s instinct remains one of their greatest tools. This is clearly something which you will refine over time but even at the start of your career you shouldn’t be afraid to listen to the little voice in your head which tells you what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
6. Keep Your Options Open
At the first sight of a problem one of the most common reactions is to look for a solution right away. This is sometimes the best one possible but sometimes it isn’t so good. There are usually quite a few ways to resolve the issue and limiting yourself to just one of them right away is never a good idea.
7. Tell the Truth
When a project runs into trouble it can be tempting to try and hide the full extent of the problems from others. This is only going to end in greater problems so you should face up to the issues right away. By doing this you can seek help and encourage open and useful dialogue among all of the interested parties.
8. Don’t Ditch the Plan
The project plan is one of the most important parts of the entire project and shouldn’t be thrown to one side at the first sign of trouble. What you may need to do is amend it in some way but you need to have a project plan to call on at all times. If you think that it is too far out now to be rescued then drawing up a new one for the remainder of the project is going to be your best approach.
9. Take Your Time
It is human nature to try and solve problems as quickly as possible. Diving straight in and trying to straighten out the project in a day or two might be tempting but it is not a good long term approach. The issues need to be explored and analyzed before you can confidently state that you know the way forward. A speedy approach might ease your mind for a short spell but you will no doubt be in trouble again before very long if you act in haste.
10. Alert the Stakeholders
The stakeholders are the people who most want to know how the project is going. If there is a problem then they need to be alerted as soon as possible. This might seem like a painful thing to do but it has to be done. It could end with some arguments and accusations but delaying the inevitable only ever makes it worse. Let them see what has happened and get them on board in trying to sort it out.