Staying on track

One of the biggest challenges with any project is sticking to the original plan. There’s often so much to do, often within tight timescales, and no project runs exactly as planned. There are always unexpected events that occur and throw things a little off course, which can cause delay to your project.

It can take a long time to figure out your project plan, and you’ll inevitably be keen to hit all the milestones you’ve so carefully put in place. Project managers know as well as anyone that missing deadlines – and consequently not meeting those milestones – means additional work. You may often hear “…well, we missed the sign-off by a week so we’ll just push everything else out by a week.” This is an easy conclusion to come to but actually you should first consider all possible impacts wisely before making such assumptions.

You see, missing a deadline doesn’t mean that all other milestones will automatically move out by the same amount of time. For example, say that I.T. development or a video shoot is the next milestone in your project: if your resources are ‘booked’ for a particular time period, you may well find that they can’t commit a week later due to other work. The next available slot for a video shoot with your required actors may not be possible for a while – in effect, you’ve missed your timeslot. This is why project success is quite often simply down to good planning. You must be aware of the dependencies affecting your project.

So, missing a deadline can mean a great deal more work for you as a project manager. You’ll need to review and update your project plan, request more resources, re-assess risks and issues (no doubt raising more!) and communicate the change and impact to all of the project’s stakeholders. All these tasks will be multiplied if you are juggling several projects at once, and they’ll have a definite impact on your time and project costs!

Quite often, making the project team, sponsors and stakeholders aware of the risks and consequences of missing deadlines will encourage them all to stay on track – they don’t want to delay the project any more than you do and they certainly won’t want to incur additional costs!