When time is tight and there’s pressure to get a project underway as quickly as possible, it might be tempting to ignore concerns that might keep you from revising a project plan that is out of whack. You probably know the feeling—you’ve seen the plan but you don’t think it can possibly be executed as it stands. These worries typically manifest in a handful of specific areas. It may be that the timing of activities looks far too optimistic, or that resource concerns raised early in the planning phase were glossed over and forgotten. It could also be that there aren’t any contingency plans in place to address the potential problems you see looming.
If you’ve charged ahead even though you didn’t think a project plan was doable, you already know how this story usually ends. The team quickly falls behind, and the delays pile up as one serious hurdle after another arises and hinders progress. These projects are often doomed to fail, sometimes because the team runs out of time or because there aren’t enough resources to reach more of the project’s primary goals.
What can you do if you suspect your project plan is unworkable? Ignoring your concerns and hoping things will somehow come together on their own is a mistake. The only way your team can restore your project’s chances of achieving success is to take immediate, targeted action.
First, pull the team together. It’s important that everyone involved in developing and executing the plan have an opportunity to weigh in on where the current proposal may be flawed. This includes not only project team members but also sponsors and stakeholders. Clearly communicate your concerns and ask if anyone else shares them. Perhaps you’re simply missing key information that would provide more complete insight into the situation and relieve your anxieties. Conversely, by speaking up, you may give others the confidence to express any doubts they have also been harboring. List out each concern so nothing is overlooked as you move forward.
With everyone working as a group, it’s time to identify where the project planning strategy went off target. Was the risk assessment step missed or cut short for some reason? Did a subset of stakeholders not participate in the planning or forecasting efforts? Were sponsors not able to reach a consensus on the project’s goals, time-frame, or resource allocations? It’s not uncommon to discover that multiple mistakes were made, so don’t stop digging just because you find one oversight or error. Everything from the inadvertent use of outdated information to the deliberate omission of facts and figures could all contribute to the need to waste time revising a project plan.
One by one, begin to address and resolve the mistakes that were made. Replace obsolete data with more accurate information. Identify where budget discrepancies exist and update them. Create new forecasts for expenditures and resource requirements. Consider where the schedule of activities should be revised, then re-sequence tasks as appropriate. Look at staffing availability and confirm if sufficient resources are available when you need them.
With a workable plan now in hand, evaluate if other aspects of the project must also be updated. Will the revised schedule require additional funds? Is that money available? Does the project’s target completion date need to be adjusted, and is that possible? If budget and time constraints exist, how can you scale back the project’s scope to fit within them? Explore other options, too, such as the possibility of increasing the team’s staffing levels, tapping into internal support resources to save money, or bringing in an outside consultant to reduce inefficiencies and better control the project going forward.