5 Things project managers can do when a project goes downhill
When you work in project management, you’ll occasionally return to work with a smile on your face after a weekend’s rest, continue working on the project you spent endless hours planning, and realize you’re fighting a losing battle. How do you determine when to abandon a project and what the best approach is when this happens? When a project goes awry, the following are some helpful hints and tips:
- Show leadership and stay calm
Listen to people’s worries as soon as they arise, rather than waiting until the project is failing, to prevent ambiguity from developing into fear. Maintaining your cool allows you to focus on accountability concerns in greater depth during the review stage. Be upfront and try to focus on solutions rather than problems. Make an honest effort to communicate with everyone, whether it’s a quick phone call or an email letting them know you have a strategy in place. This will prevent any unpleasant surprises in the future.
- Avoid throwing in more resources
When challenges arise, it’s natural to want to invest more money, time, and resources into the project, but this isn’t always the greatest option. Consider how much time and money the project will require to pay off. The best thing to do now is to appreciate what has been accomplished thus far and, even if the conclusion isn’t what was hoped for, to avoid throwing additional money at a project that has been given ample resources but has failed.
- Have a backup plan in place
Checkpoints should be established at the planning stage of a project so that if it appears to be failing, there are exit points where the project can be discarded with minimal consequence. It’s critical to have a Plan B in place because the success of this project may be critical to your company’s survival. This is especially important in a B2B setting when deadlines must be met.
- Review and focus on the preferred outcome
After the project has stabilized, it’s critical to have a cooling-off phase so that everyone can approach the review stages with clarity. Everyone might provide one item they did well and one thing they would change in the review. Then, try to analyze approaches to future projects, taking into account the costs and dangers of each, as well as the knock-on consequences to other activities in the project plan.
- Set up training and follow up
After you’ve identified the problems, consider how your team can move forward and learn from its failures. You could assign personal development goals to team members. Create a checklist based on all of the points raised in your review and provide training in any areas where people are lacking. This will increase your team’s trust in the organization’s readiness to fill knowledge gaps. Above all, don’t try to solve everything all at once.
The truth is that some projects go wrong and will continue to go wrong in project management. All it takes is a good project manager to keep everyone calm and deal with the situation effectively. After all, a leader will take it all in stride and learn from it.
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