Project delays can happen, making everyone involved anxious and even jeopardizing future projects. Learn how to not only deal with these setbacks but learn from them as well.
Catch It Early
Ultimately, the ideal way to handle project delays is to foresee them happening and countering whatever may be the cause, avoiding any interruption altogether. Unless you have a crystal ball, though, chances are you will not know about a delay until it actually occurs. Remaining constantly aware of the project schedule and keeping in close contact with your team will enable you to notice a delay as soon as it happens. Your quick attention and prompt action will get the project back on track as close the original deadline as possible.
Hold a Team Meeting
Once you realize that there is a delay, organize a team meeting. Inform everyone working on the project about the delay, including details such as factors contributing to the holdup and how far it has set the project back. Ask for input and ideas on how to get back on schedule, and plan a course of action moving forward. If you will require additional work from team members or supplementary resources, make this known as well. Asking for volunteers who are willing to take on extra tasks as needed is advisable, as well.
Review tasks assigned to team members. Prioritize project assignments, moving any that are especially time sensitive to the top of the list. For example, if publications must be sent to the printer by a specific date, move completing artwork and reviewing text ahead of less pressing tasks, such as creating form letters that do not need to be mailed out until later in the project's lifespan.
Cut Any Fat
Along with prioritizing which tasks must be completed soonest, determine whether there are any assignments that can be trimmed down or done away with completely. Scaling back on unnecessary tasks will not only get you closer to your schedule but also ensure that your team has the time needed to produce quality work.
Bring in Help
Determine whether recruiting additional assistance will allow you to overcome project delays and get back on track. Hiring temporary administrative support through an employment agency can help you get caught up on the paperwork and data entry side of the project, while engaging contract workers for other jobs may lighten the load of overextended staff and give your team the shot in the arm that they need to complete the project.
While working to recover from project delays, keep a close eye on upcoming deadlines and priority assignments. If you notice that a certain department seems to be falling behind or a specific task is not as close to completion as it could be, ascertain what is causing the holdup and resolve it quickly to avoid any further setbacks. Your tracking methods may take on many forms, from time management software to more frequent team meetings.
Any time that you make major changes to your initial project plan, whether the modifications are caused by project delays or not, recording the variances is crucial. The best way to do so is by creating a change control plan that outlines the proposed changes, review, approval and implementation. Creating a record of changes shows that you were aware of the setback and took steps to correct it promptly. Such documents can be useful tools for future projects, as well.
Keeping project stakeholders in the loop when there is a delay is a good practice. If there is a holdup, it is better for them to hear it from you than to get wind of it through the rumor mill. Your transparency will reassure them that you are well aware of the causes of any project delays and that you have everything under control. Updating stakeholders on end date changes allows them to plan accordingly, as well.
Touch Base with Contractors
Getting in touch with contractors is also important. You may need to let some of them know that you will not be needing their services until a later date, if their role in the project has been moved back due to the delays. On the other hand, you might need to ask a contractor if they can have their part of the project completed even earlier in order to put other tasks on hold. Either way, keeping the lines of communication open can eliminate potential problems that would only cause more delays.
Finally, step away from the project briefly. Give yourself time to catch a breath and process all of the readjustments. Then you can head back to the tasks at hand with renewed perspective and focus on what is yet to be completed. Doing so ensures that you are able to give the project your full attention without risking the quality on which you have built your reputation.