How to Identify and Correct Causes of Project Delays

An effective project manager tracks every aspect of a project as it progresses in order to identify and correct causes of delays. After you confirm that a problem exists, you have to understand what caused the problem before you can bring your project back on track.

The following circumstances may cause schedule delays:

  • During the performance period, people spend less time on the activity than they agreed to.

  • The activity requires more work effort than you planned.

  • People are expanding the scope of the activity without the necessary reviews and approvals.

  • Completing the activity requires steps you didn’t identify in your plan.

  • The people working on the activity have less experience with similar activities than you anticipated.

The following situations may result in people charging more or less time to activities than you planned:

  • The person is more or less productive than you assumed when you developed them.

  • You allowed insufficient time for becoming familiar with the activity before starting to work on it.

  • The person is more or less efficient than you considered.

  • The activity requires more or less work than you anticipated.

You may spend more or less money on your project activities than you planned for the following reasons:

  • You receive the bills for goods or services later than you planned, so they’re paid later than you planned.

  • You prepay for certain items to receive special discounts.

  • You don’t need certain goods or services that you budgeted for in your plan.

  • You need goods or services that you didn’t budget for in your plan.

When your project’s performance deviates from your plan, first try to bring your project back in accordance with the existing plan. Then, if necessary, investigate the option of formally changing some of the commitments in the existing plan to create a new plan.

Consider the following approaches for bringing a project back in line with its existing plan:

  • If the variance results from a one-time occurrence, see whether it will disappear on its own. Suppose you planned to spend 40 person-hours searching for and buying a piece of equipment, but you actually spent 10 person-hours because you found exactly what you wanted for the price you wanted to pay at the first store. Don’t immediately change your plan to reallocate the 30 person-hours you saved on this activity. Most likely, you’ll wind up overspending slightly on some future activities, and the work-effort expenditures will even each other out.

  • If the variance suggests a situation that will lead to similar variances in the future, consider changing your plan to prevent the future variances from occurring. Suppose a team member requires twice the allotted work effort to finish her assignment because she’s less experienced than the plan anticipated. If her lack of experience will cause her to be less productive on future assignments, revise the plan for her to spend more effort on those assignments.

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