being able to manage project delays within the project lifecycle is crucial for a successful end result. Sometimes the problem is that tasks begin later than planned, or the schedule slips when activities take longer to complete than expected. If you’re worried about delays derailing your project, the right strategies can help you stay ahead of the game. Below are some tips to head off delays before they happen, and to quickly deal with any scheduling snafus that do arise.
1 – Ensure the right people participate in project planning.One sure way to invite timeline troubles is to populate the schedule with guesses and speculation. Unfortunately, many project teams feel so rushed that they don’t make time for a thoughtful and thorough approach to developing the project schedule. You can sidestep this pitfall—and significantly reduce the risk of delays—by involving the necessary experts in the effort. The people responsible for executing each task are the best source of insight when it comes to determining when their activities can begin and estimating how long they’ll take to complete. Use their expertise to create a schedule that’s realistic and reliable.
2 – Gather accurate and complete information.As you’re creating the initial schedule, focus on pulling together the most comprehensive data possible on task duration estimates and timing. Don’t just fill in the blanks in a template. Instead, ask a lot of questions to be sure nothing is missed. Are some tasks more likely to present challenges than others? Does anyone have concerns about specific areas that could potentially experience delays? Has a labor provider missed a time window in the past? Is a supplier routinely late with deliveries? You can develop a better strategy to proactively address these scheduling challenges if they’re on your radar well in advance.
3 – Clearly identify task dependencies and other links. Even if one activity encounters a delay, it’s possible to mitigate the downstream impacts if you know how your project’s tasks and milestones are connected to each other. Outline the dependencies to give your team a starting point. Using that, they can more effectively resequence tasks and then determine where it’s possible to compress the schedule to prevent one delay from snowballing into many more.
4 – Understand where outside support will be needed.Because you have less control over vendors and other external partners, it’s important to know where these resources appear in the project schedule. If craft labor is needed to perform key tasks, for example, identify it on the schedule and work with the vendor to create a timeline they can commit to. The same diligence should be given to equipment and materials, as those could also cause a work slowdown if their delivery is delayed.
5 – Implement strong project controls.It’s far easier to head off a delay than it is to deal with a schedule that’s already beginning to slide. The use of project controls will help alert your team to any conflicts or other timing issues that may be coming down the pike, giving them an opportunity to take action before a delay occurs.
6 – Be prepared to dynamically update the schedule as the project moves forward.If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s change. The availability of raw materials could dry up or unexpected events might impact your project with little warning. If you maintain good communication across the project team, you’ll be able to incorporate feedback and status updates from those working in the field into the project schedule. Using this dynamic framework, you can mitigate the impact of any delay and maintain alignment with your target completion date.