Project teams typically focus on what will (or could) happen in the next project, and that’s the right place to put your energy. You need to look for risk factors such as bad weather, labor shortages, or funding gaps that have the potential to affect your efforts if they occur. And if those things don’t happen? Then you’re in better shape than you planned, and that’s a good outcome.
But some expectations—or perhaps they’re just hopes—that arise during project planning discussions are the opposite. Rather than casting ominous shadows over a project, these prospects represent a better reality than what you’ll probably face once the initiative begins. Planning for worst-case scenarios helps your team overcome challenges while falling for more cheery predictions could lead to disappointment. Without knowing for sure what lies ahead, it’s best to recognize which scenarios will not happen in your next project.
1. Your stakeholders won’t remember the processes, workflows, designated contacts, or communication protocols from earlier projects. That’s right, the instructions you provide to stakeholders on contacting your team members, where documentation and status updates can be accessed for review, and everything else is immediately forgotten once an initiative is complete. Even if you work with the same stakeholder groups regularly, don’t assume they’ll carry any of that knowledge from one project to the next. Checklists and templates will prove their value when you’re left to educate everyone again at the start of the next project.
2. Your budget review and approval timeline won’t move any faster than any other project’s process. New workflows are always being introduced internally to speed up activities like requesting approvals and making financial data available for senior staff members to peruse. However, it’s rare that those changes significantly alter the actual review time for something as complex and expensive as the typical project budget. Save yourself from frustration and assume up front that your previous project’s budget review timeline will apply here, too. If everything goes well, you’ll be ahead of the game.
3. Your specialty contractors won’t have more flexibility or open time windows in their schedules than usual. Yes, you can hope your key vendors hired another person or two to help with the workload. But if they’re in demand, then realistically they’ve probably been turning a lot of work away, and even with more people on board they won’t be any easier to schedule this time. Never count on a wide-open calendar when coordinating your niche labor resources.
4. Your internal team members won’t have more time available to dedicate to this project than they have to previous efforts. The traditional cycle of frantic times and lull periods no longer exists for most project teams, but some leaders still think there must be gaps between projects somewhere on the horizon. Urgent requests will continue to shake up your project pipeline, staffing swings will shape and reshape your labor availability picture, and people will leave for new opportunities at what seems like the worst possible time. Build flexibility into your project plans so you aren’t taken by surprise—again—when that lull time never materializes.
5. The weather during your next project won’t be any more predictable than in years past. Storms pop up almost anywhere and at any time–it doesn’t need to be deep winter for a job site to be snowed in. Wind can take out power supplies no matter the season. Weather predictions are still wildly off base despite the latest forecasting technology advancements. So develop those contingency plans, even if you think your mid-summer project might be immune from weather-related problems.