When you start out on a new project the plan is where you put in all of the details which will help you take the piece of work through to a successful conclusion. At first it might seem like something you just have to get out of the way as quickly as possible but once you are in the thick of the project it will become clear just how important the plan is to you and how important it is to see when it is under threat.
You Lose Track of It
If it is your first job as a project manager you might neglect to pay as much attention to the plan as you should do. The first time you realize this could be when you discover that you have lost track of it. This could mean that you are left floundering about trying to work out what needs to be done and when. Losing track of the plan means that you will struggle to work out how to take the project forward. If this happens to you then the best idea is to take stock of the situation calmly and look to see how you can resolve the issues. This might mean starting all over again but more likely is that a couple of hours of peace and quiet while you sit with the plan will let you put it back into order again.
You Realize it is Wrong
Maybe you are keeping a close eye on the plan but it still goes wrong. This could happen simply because it wasn’t well enough designed in the first place. For, example, you might not have taken into account all of the inter dependencies which are part of the piece of work. If you work this out part of the way through the project then it still isn’t too late to do something about it. In fact, the worst thing you could do is try and ignore the problem in the hope that it will go away. Instead of this, you should take this as being the opportunity to get the plan sorted out once and for all.
Something Unexpected Happens
This is a bit of a vague heading because it is a point which covers a lot of different possibilities. There are lots of problems which could have a knock on effect on your project plan. For example, you could lose a member of staff or an element of the work could turn out to be far more complex than anyone had thought. In this case your first step is to assess the potential impact. Unlike in the first two points, there is a chance that you can rescue the situation without having to drastically re-work the plan. Once you have gone over the possible outcomes it should be clear whether you are going to have change anything or not. Of course, if the project plan needs to be changed for any reason you will need to inform the stakeholders of this as well and get their agreement.
You Were Overly Optimistic
Maybe you have a new project team and you were a bit too optimistic about their chances of carrying out the work really quickly. This is nothing to be ashamed of but there is still a need to work out how this is going to affect your plan. Hopefully you left some contingency in it, and perhaps pushing out a few dates will let you reach a more realistic timescale. You shouldn’t beat yourself up at this kind of thing too much. It happens to all of us at some point. The most important issues are that you seek a workable resolution and that you keep it in mind for future projects. After all, this is the sort of problem which will help you become a better project manager in the future provided that you learn from it and avoid it happening over again.
You Receive New Information
Projects are often changeable pieces of work and it could be that you are given an extra piece of information which changes everything. The first thing you should think of in this situation is the plan. This is what helps you control the work so any changes needs to be reflected on here in order for you carry on controlling it as well as you have been doing. It is when you fail to do this that there could be serious issues.