Delay Announced? Key Considerations for Getting Projects Back on Track

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In September of 2014, the Green Bay Packers were off to a slow start by their own lofty standards. Fans, worried about missing the playoffs, became outraged when quarterback Aaron Rodgers' issued the instruction to "relax." This 5-letter word caused a visceral reaction in the sports world, with fans and commentators uniting in their displeasure at the seemingly cavalier instruction. It got me thinking—we often talk about 4-letter words, but there are also a handful of 5-letter words that can cause a reaction depending on the context: death, taxes, Trump, #metoo.

In the project management world, the 5-letter word that jumps out is “delay.” When this word first comes up during a project, the reaction can be traumatic. Pulse rate increases, palms become sweaty and anxiety can appear. A delay can occur for myriad reasons that even the most well-constructed project team may be unable to account for in the project planning phase. Facing the reality of a delay and how to deal with it is a critical aspect of project management. Below I outline four key considerations for getting your project back on track and avoiding additional delays.

Measure twice and cut once.

This advice may sound cliché, but the idea is to review all completed work then review it again to ensure nothing has been missed. Honest conversations with all project team members concerning realistic target dates for completing work need to be set to avoid additional delays. The only thing worse than a delay is a second or third delay that could have been prevented by taking the extra time to conduct a second review. 

Review the scope.

Review the list of items for development that were deferred in the hopes of meeting an aggressive timeline and determine if any should be added back to the day one deliverables. Likewise, identify items that aren’t mission critical and could therefore be added to a deferred or day two list.

Evaluate additional resources.

Are the early phases of the project (gathering requirements, creating requirements documents, and/or development itself) taking considerably longer than expected? If so, could additional resources in those areas reduce the amount of time needed to complete those tasks? Adding resources to the development and testing teams and the costs associated with those resources can be a tough pill to swallow. But additional resources typically have the biggest return on the overall project resource investment. If timing is critical, the advantages of adding additional resources may outweigh the costs. 

Don’t short change testing.

In my experience, testing can be given the short end of the stick. Development and the initial round of testing often seem to take longer than expected resulting in the testing team being squeezed to meet the project deadline. When reviewing the full project timeline, account for an extended development cycle. For the testing timeline, also account for multiple iterations of testing including regression testing, as items found in the testing cycle are fixed and will require re-testing.

Project delays are often unavoidable. But, by keeping these key considerations in mind during planning and testing, second or third delays can be avoided. Remember to take Aaron Rodgers' advice and “relax.” Take a step back and look at these key considerations to produce a realistic and achievable project completion date. Doing so can keep your project on track – and help you avoid using those dreaded five (and four) letter words during your next project.