Simply said – Project is a list of tasks. Companies have started using them to develop people, achieve results, measure performance, and many more. While the new reality is focused on projects, many people struggle with learning this way of work. Still, more than sixty percent of the workforce (as described in a Gallup results survey from 2020) expect someone to tell them what to do and explain how things must be done. From the part of people working on a project basis, the same Gallup report says that more than fifty-eight percent have some issues with the projects they lead. No matter the resources, time, and effort, projects often fail behind schedule, or lack some help, or are delayed because you need to make the things just perfect, etc.
Project leaders often get into delicate situations where they have to explain why something has gotten behind schedule and what the cost for the company will be.
There is no one tool to predict if a project will be successful or not. Still, there are some universal techniques to help every project leader better manage the project and lower the damage from possible incomplete completion.
Here I will share with you some of my favorite techniques for leading and ending a project.
Put more resources into the project
This step looks obvious, but still, many project leaders are afraid to use it. While someone has approved a particular budget without knowing the details, many project leaders try to stick to that budget and not overspend it. But a budget represents not only the money you put into the project but also other resources like time, tools, people, etc. So, if the project leader has not estimated well initially, he will struggle with resources, which will lead to a delay or even break-up in the project schedule. So, the first step to do is to make the analysis and, if needed, to add more resources to the project. This step often boosts the project to its completion and solves most of the problems.
Reduce the quality of what is to be done
I know this step looks unpleasant, but the project leader will have to learn to live with it. When lacking resources, or there is no support to get more of the resources needed, or the level of the result delivered can be lowered a little bit to speed up the completion process, the project leader has to re-evaluate the quality level of the project steps scheduled. With this re-evaluation, the project leader will have to step up to the project sponsor and the main stakeholders and discuss the essential quality of the project and what is not so important. After that conversation, the quality of the work delivered during the project schedule must be divided into two groups – essential things where the rate must not be compromised and second-level elements of the project where quality is not so important. Reducing quality in some or all areas of the project often speeds it up and boosts results up.
Maybe you have often heard the phrase “I am multitasking.” In ninety-nine percent of the time, people are not multitasking but micro-tasking. It happens the same with the projects. The time when we dramatically fail is the time when we try to multitask. Knowing this, the project leader still needs to find some hidden resources to balance the project schedule. One of the helpful techniques here is to re-assess the project tasks list and combine tasks similar to close or the same blocks for completion. While we want to see the results from something we have stated, many people are still doing one task till the end and start the next one after the previous task is completed and the result is obvious. When the pressure from the first task lowers in these periods, we can invest in starting the next job. But many of the people involved in a project don’t do it. That is why the project leader needs to re-assess the capabilities of the project team members and utilize them to serve the project better. Overlapping tasks when the pressure is low will keep the team members on the speed line and will help the project schedule improve dramatically.
Abandon the project
I know this one does not sound enjoyable, but let’s be honest. Not every project is meant to happen. Even if everything looked great at the beginning of the project, circumstances might have turned it into a black hole. So before executing this technique, the project leader needs to analyze the situation with all PROS and CONS. This will give him a good picture of what is happening and to what that leads. If there is a chance to fix the project schedule and deliverables without investing much more money, time, and other resources, it is worth trying. But if the project looks like an activity that will cost too much and there is no relevance in invested resources and achieved results, it will be better to scratch the project and move to something else. Not a pleasant technique and not an enjoyable step and decision to take. But still necessary for the project leader to be seen as a trusted partner instead of a mad achiever who does not care about anything except to finish a project on every price.
While I wrote about what is useful to do if you see that a project is not happening as expected, I want to share two things that a good project manager must not do or be careful about.
Do nothing and hope for the best to happen as a miracle
Sometimes project leaders see that things are not going well and the project is struggling with deliverables. The first wrong thing to do in such situation is just sit, look and wait. Things are not going to change because someone is not doing anything. They are going to change if the project leader does the necessary steps to complete it successfully.
Let the project slip away
Another wrong thing to do is just let the project slip. Why is this wrong? Because you do not have control over it anymore. If the project slips from the project manager control and framework than the project manager loses the ability to influence the course and the deliverables of the project and that often leads to a disastrous end of the project.
Managing projects is not an easy task. The project manager acts more like the owner of the business than as a regular employee in the company. It is in his hands to define if a project will be successful and deliver results or will turn into a black hole for the company. No matter the decision, the project manager is the one who cares the responsibility for utilizing the use of company resources to achieve something greater by implementing new projects. The right decision, no matter if it is positive or negative is the way for the project manager to show himself as a supporter of the business, instead of one who is only experimenting with the company resources.