The Interrupted Project: Maintain Your Momentum

Sometimes interruptions happen that disrupt the normal project flow. PMs can predict many of these situations and develop contingency plans for them, such as seasonal weather impacts and labor shortages during peak times. However, you may encounter interruptions that are created by your own company—a reorganization that puts a temporary halt on a project, for example—or that are completely unexpected, such the impacts some regions are seeing now on trade, travel, and workforce availability stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.

interrupted project

Whether the interruption could have been foreseen or it arrives out of the blue, how can your team maintain its momentum when something impedes a project’s activity sequence?

Begin by taking stock of the current situation. You may not have all the information you want just yet and some of the details might still be pending. However, forming a good understanding of what the reality is right now will help you move forward more strategically. Give this step your full attention because the knowledge you gain here will inform the decisions you make later.

Review your onsite resources so you have a clear picture of everything that’s immediately accessible to you. Some portion of the materials, talent, or other items you had expected to utilize may no longer be available for your project. If your usual team members can’t visit a job location or come into the office due to travel or other restrictions, you need to know that so you can develop alternate arrangements.

For those resources that aren’t currently on hand, confirm the status of everything that was earmarked for later use. Don’t assume your anticipated resources will arrive on time (or at all), especially if whatever caused the interruption to your project is impacting other organizations, too. Contact equipment sellers, consultants, labor vendors, transportation providers, supply warehouses, and everyone else with an active contract to furnish resources. You may need to move ahead even without a full list of resource updates. Make a note of items without a current status so you can revisit them later.

Assess your funding to ensure your project’s scope and timeline are still achievable. Even if the project has already received full budget approval, reach out to your sponsors and executive stakeholders to confirm the current interruption hasn’t also triggered a reshuffling of the organization’s financial picture.

Look at the calendar for other potential impacts. If the disruption is likely to push your project beyond its original timeline, there may be fiscal or other ramifications to consider. Will your current permit windows expire before the initiative is complete? Will you need to obtain new regulatory approvals before you can restart your project? Will repayment deadlines for business loans affect your funding strategy or your project’s scope?

With a good understanding of your current resource levels and what the interruption will likely do to your original project plan, you can begin to analyze where you go from here. Look for opportunities to continue progress on your effort using a revised timeline or scaled-back deliverables. If the interruption is localized, can you move your team’s primary jobsite or provide remote access? If only a portion of your supply chain has been disrupted, is it possible to shift the use of delayed materials to a point later in the project’s lifecycle and move ahead now with other activities? If the work stoppage is the result of issues within your organization, discuss the potential to reallocate your internal resources to other efforts. This may allow your team to execute smaller, lower-risk, or less resource-intensive projects while you wait for approval to restart your current initiative.


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