Ten Steps for Getting Your Project Back on Track

Sometimes you join a project in progress only to find out that things are languishing. Other times, the project on which you’re working loses focus. To get back on track, think of the remaining work as a new project: Develop a revised project plan, announce your plan to the organization, and closely track your performance. The following tips can help you do so:

  • Determine why your project got off track. The first step toward fixing a problem is understanding it. So before you set out to get your project back on track, figure out exactly how your project is off track.

    For example, you may be lagging behind schedule, overspending on resource budgets, or not producing desired outcomes. The next step is to identify the reasons why your project is off track. These reasons may include key people left the team, key drivers lost interest, the business environment changed, new technology emerged, or organizational priorities shifted.

  • Recaptivate your key drivers. Identify the people who stand to benefit from your project. Consider people who originally wanted your project to be performed, as well as others who have emerged since the project began. Reaffirm the benefits your project will provide them and encourage their active support.

  • Confirm your project’s objectives. Confirm your project’s objectives with your project’s drivers. Modify or add to the original objectives if people’s needs have changed. Make sure the objectives are specific and measurable and that people believe they’re achievable.

  • Reevaluate the activities remaining to be done. Work with team members to confirm, modify, or eliminate the activities originally identified or add new ones, as needed. For all activities, clarify the resources required, estimated durations, and interdependencies.

  • Reaffirm roles and responsibilities. Work with team members to clarify people’s roles and responsibilities for the remaining project activities. Identify and resolve any conflicts that arose during the work performed to date. Eliminate any ambiguities that existed in the original plan and encourage all team members to reaffirm their commitments to project success.

  • Develop a viable schedule. Revise your original schedule, as needed, to allow for all the work remaining to be completed by the required end date. Define meaningful intermediate milestones you can use to track your ongoing performance.

  • Clarify your personnel assignments. Reevaluate whom you’ll need to perform the remaining work, how much effort they’ll have to invest, and when they’ll need to do the work. Recruit additional team members for the project if necessary. Confirm that all team members understand the effort they’ll have to invest and agree to do the work.

  • Develop a risk-management plan. When you develop a revised project plan, chances are you’ll have additional project activities to perform, new members on the team to involve, and a tight schedule to meet. While you may be able to develop a plan that has a chance of meeting your targets, the plan most likely will have risks.

    Identify, analyze, and plan to minimize the negative impact of those risks. For the risks you decide to address proactively, do the following:

    • Try to minimize the chances that they’ll occur.

    • Develop contingency plans, in case they do occur.

    Continually update your risk-management plan as you proceed through the remainder of your project.

  • Hold a midcourse kickoff session. Galvanize your team and reawaken the organization’s interest in your newly replanned project by holding a midcourse kickoff session. In addition to announcing your anticipated results and timeframes, use the kickoff session to convince people that you have a viable plan, a unified commitment, and a high likelihood of success.

  • Closely monitor and control performance for the remainder of the project. Ensure that your project doesn’t get off track again by doing the following:

    • Frequently track performance and compare actual achievements with planned achievements.

    • Report to key audiences on your ongoing progress.

    • Promptly deal with any problems that arise.

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