It can happen to even the best of project managers. One moment it’s all smooth sailing, deliverables coming in on-time and everything nicely to budget, then crash, it all hits the proverbial fan. Disagreements break out, contractors go missing, deadlines get missed and stakeholders are far from pleased with the turn of events.
Knowing how to solve problems can be difficult enough in itself, so having to do so while making sure the project stays on track can be even tougher. To help you get an idea of what kind of problems can arise mid-project and how they can be dealt with, we’ve decided to take a closer look at some common issues.
- Losing team members from the project
Employees come and go as part of the normal process of doing business. This can cause major issues during a project’s life-cycle however, as team roles can often be overlapping and complementary so losing one piece of the jigsaw ruins the whole image.
Solution: The problem-solving techniques you can use to deal with a gap in your team will depend on the situation. Hiring or drafting in a new member can be time-consuming or expensive but is often a necessity. Depending on the stage of the project it might also be possible to alter the project’s scope slightly or seek to extend the deadlines and then re-distribute tasks among the remaining team members. The time it takes to “ramp up” employees is also a factor to consider, especially if they have to jump into an existing project or initiative. If projects-in-flight are on a collaborative system that keeps an ongoing record of related discussions, documents and plans, adding new members can be much less painful and ramp times can be greatly accelerated.
- Costs spiraling out of control
While budget management may not be the primary responsibility of a project manager, it is certainly necessary to keep an eye on it over the course of a project. Significant over-runs will lead to the project being deemed a failure no matter what else is achieved and if this is already obvious mid-project then you’ll need to make some adjustments quickly.
Solution: One of the most obvious problem-solving techniques in this situation is to sit down with your financial team and see where exactly the money is going. A run-through of daily, weekly and monthly expenses should identify where the over-runs are occurring, following which, tough decisions will need to be made on expenses that must be cut.
- Project scope becoming altered
Once a project is in full flow, it is reasonably common to have others jump on the bandwagon to try and get a piece of the budget or to use the efficiencies created for themselves. This can be benign, for example an investment in expanded cloud-storage capacity can be used throughout the organization without affecting your project, however it can also create issues. This is because your project scope can easily get side-tracked.
Solution: Knowing how to solve problems related to project scope and keeping your team focused on the exact goals that have been laid out for them is an important responsibility for any PM. At team meetings and regular intervals, remind your team and yourself what the short, medium and long-term targets of your project are and make sure your project stays aligned. Also, having a full view into resource load and availability upfront—and along the way—will lead to many less headaches (or train wrecks!) down the road. If ad-hoc changes must be made you are then prepared with an approach that can scale to your team’s project load and skillsets.
Like a good pilot knowing what to do in cases of emergency, a good PM needs to have a range of problem-solving techniques when unforeseen circumstances arise mid-project. There is no problem without a solution so if you’re wondering how to solve problems mid-flow, take some time to gather opinions or think outside the box, as the answer is out there.