Eevery project manager‘s nightmare is a delay in the project. Planning a project requires answers to what needs to be done by whom, and by when. The more details that are available to answer the questions, the better a project can be planned.
“Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan.” ― Winston Churchill
I. Project Timeline
The first cause of a delay is bad planning in terms of the timeline. If the steps to completion are not planned in terms of how long they take to complete, a project is heading for failure. For that not to happen, the project manager needs to know how long each step of the project will take. Step length depends on various aspects of each task, such as: what kind of skills are needed for the task; who has the skill to tackle the task; how available that person is; does that person have the necessary resources available to them. In the worst case, if there is no experience with a similar project or the individual steps in it, the amount of time needed needs to be guessed. Guesstimates, or let’s call them ‘first-time predictions’, should be planned with a time buffer, as people tend to underestimate the time needed to complete tasks. Once a project or a task can be based on similar real-life experiences from the past, the planning will become more accurate.
There are tools such as Gantt charts to make planning visible. These tools allow for buffers. They also allow the project manager to make shifts in tasks while the project is still running – without endangering the ultimate deadline. Constant monitoring and feedback loops mitigate the risk of timeline shifts.
II. Unrealistic Project Objectives
Another common reason for project delay is forming unrealistic objectives to start with. If you reach for the moon but offer no means to get there, you won’t make it. That’s why project managers are advised to question the target or the goal of a project right from the get-go, to make sure that goal is achievable. A thorough screening of project requirements is required to enable the project manager to pinpoint potential problems. Challenging targets are good; unrealistic ones are bad. Nothing is more frustrating for a team than to struggle to reach a target that was never achievable anyway. It may even cause negative lessons learned for a team: the next project will not be taken seriously and less effort will be put into it.
III. Wrong People for It, or the Right People Become Unavailable
When planning a project, tasks need to be so well-defined that a project manager knows what kind of skills are needed to fulfill them. There’s no use planning to create a great meal if there are no cooks in the house! Keep in mind, it is not only about the necessary skill– it is also about the way a team works together. Lack of communication between team members can also delay or, in the worst case, even kill a project. Having the wrong people working on a project means: they are not as effective as the right people would be; they take longer to fulfill tasks; they need more support; in the worst case, they get frustrated and demotivated once they realize that they can’t do what is requested of them. The other team members have to pick up the slack. They are also slowed down in case they need to help out someone else. Another related issue is if a team member becomes unavailable, the tasks need to be picked up by somebody else – who is either already busy with other parts of the project or working on something completely different. Good communication can go a long way here. An open flow of information combined with honesty and trust can prevent time losses by promptly indicating when there is a problem, to give team members the chance to solve snafus as quickly as possible.
IV. Shifts in Required Outcome – Project Scope Changes
A shift in project scope while the project is already running is another reason for a delay. If a customer presents you with moving targets, you’ll have to dance around to achieve them. In the worst-case scenario, it means going back to the start because a change in scope also can result in different skills being needed – meaning different people are needed who might not even be available. The timeline will need to be recalculated completely. Additional tasks may have been added, or the same task might need to be done more often. An example would be: a room that has been painted beautifully, and since the client is happy with it, she asks to get the other rooms done the same way, within the same timeframe.
V. Outside Influences
Unpredictable outside influences like disasters can massively delay a project. It can be something like snowstorms or floods suddenly causing unreachable offices. The experience with the pandemic this year, unfortunately, caused massive delays in projects. People were asked to stay at home. That’s easy to do and it’s feasible to continue working on a project if you already had a laptop and you happened to have had it with you at home, but it’s not so easy to do if you usually work on a desktop which is still waiting for you at the office.
The Entrepreneurial Tool and Its Advantages
At The Cecily Group, we care about your projects. We are developing an application called The Entrepreneurial Tool to address the 5 problems listed above. Here’s how our tool will help you develop realistic, doable plans for project achievement:
Efficient Planning in Terms of Project Timeline
The Entrepreneurial Tool is being developed by The Cecily Group to allow for time estimates of each project step, initially based on guesstimates, later also backed up by calculations out of the same task from the past, or similar tasks. Each task from a project adds to the timeline. The fulfillment process of a project will be visible on the screen of each Impact Filter – allowing managers to see at-a-glance where the project is in terms of the original plan.
Forming Realistic Project Objectives
Using the Entrepreneurial Tool and the Impact Filter when setting up a project is a good way to ensure that no unrealistic project objectives are created. Not only do creators of Impact Filters have to sell the project to themselves, but they also have to think the project through to the end. And before it can be started, the assigned team members need to accept the project as well. So there are several people involved before the project starts, which means there are also several critical eyes on the project, looking for ways to improve it.
Find the Right People and Keep Them
The Entrepreneurial Tool will ask for feedback on the Impact Filters employees work on. Employees will be asked to rate the work as to whether it fits into their unique abilities, and to give feedback on the work itself (what worked, what did not work, and what could be improved). Based on the feedback collected, anyone (but most especially, the managers) can judge whether people have been assigned to the right tasks based on their skills. The Entrepreneurial Tool asks people to write down their unique abilities in their own words, and their managers are encouraged to consider employees’ unique abilities when planning projects. The Entrepreneurial Tool also measures how many of the tasks done by employees were within their unique abilities. Working within one’s unique abilities not only means that employees are using their most highly-developed skills but also are motivated. People who are working with something they are good at and highly enjoy get an immeasurable number of positive lifts from their work and are unlikely to leave the company. Positive motivation elevates not just employees but their teams as well, and in the end, the company.
Coping Well With Changes in Project Scope
Project work within the Entrepreneurial Tool is designed based on Impact Filters. Impact Filter creation requires the creator to spend some time answering questions such as ‘What exactly do I want to achieve with this project?’, ‘What is the purpose, importance, and outcome of my project?’, ‘How do I break down my project into achievable tasks that are assigned to one person or a smaller part of the team’? With this in mind, an Impact Filter or project can be set up to show the commitment of the creator. All the information required is in there, and the team can be motivated to work collaboratively with the facts on the table. Any shift – e.g. in the scope – does require the process of the creation of the Impact Filter to be started again, but with some parts already clear. All the change in scope requires when using an Impact Filter is to go through the tasks and adjust them – the theme, purpose, and importance do not change.
Minimizing the Damage Done by Outside Influences
The Entrepreneurial Tool is designed for remote work, which allows for a lot of flexibility in terms of where people are working from, who does what, and when people work. The tool’s flexibility minimizes the damage done by outside influences by helping managers plan work with remote teams. Teams who are using the Entrepreneurial Tool will be used to working from a distance; they can adapt to changes easier than teams not used to cooperating without being in the same office.
Contact The Cecily Group for more information about our Entrepreneurial Tool.