One hallmark of nearly every project team is constant activity. Everyone is engaged and occupied with their tasks. They’re adjusting their workloads to ensure nothing falls behind and they maintain proactive communications across the various cross-functional sub-teams to move the project forward. But while these day-to-day efforts are an important component in success, PMs must be careful that they don’t confuse effort with the real bread and butter of project management: results.
project management blog
It isn’t uncommon to encounter challenges during a project. Teams may lose a key member, putting additional work on everyone else, or a critical material might suddenly become unavailable. These problems are relatively routine and most PMs have the experience and resources to deal with the issues without derailing their project’s progress.
Is your organization launching a new facility? Whether it represents an expansion of existing operations, a relocation from a previous site, or an entirely new function for the company, there are a number of risks around material procurement that must be identified and properly addressed before your facility startup project can deliver the expected results.
Conducting ongoing checks of a project’s health is something teams should do on a regular basis, but surprisingly few actually do. If your organization is one of those that doesn’t already carry out routine monitoring, it’s an important skill that’s worth the effort to develop. A well-informed assessment gives project managers the level of awareness they need to proactively spot potential problems, deploy solutions, and monitor the results to ensure their fix was effective in bringing the project’s progress back on track.
Scope creep is a problem that plagues projects across the spectrum. Small or large, simple or complex, a project’s success can be threatened by stakeholders eager to add just one more activity to the list. If the team doesn’t know how to keep those parameters in check—or if they don’t have the tools to know when the approved scope is in jeopardy—they’ll have difficulty resisting requests to take on more than the project’s budget and target timeline can support. Failure often follows, as the Project Team’s resources are expended early and the schedule falls apart.
Fortunately, there are some strategies organizations can implement to help maintain order and eliminate ballooning project boundaries. These approaches will also aid in avoiding the related schedule delays and cost overruns, not to mention the strain on team members’ workloads.
Has your project team ever overcommitted itself? It’s a surprisingly common problem. There are many ways a team can overcommit. Some promise to achieve too much. Others promise to deliver reasonable results on an unrealistic schedule. It’s also possible that a Project Team consistently meets expectations and sticks to the agreed-upon project timeframe, but at costs that exceed the approved budget parameters.
In addition to the challenges project managers commonly face, initiatives that revolve around technology—upgrades, expansions, system replacements, etc.—bring their own unique obstacles. These can be especially difficult to navigate when you’re trying to execute a technology-related project in a non-technology organization. If a project that’s heavy on technology is on the horizon for your team, consider where roadblocks are likely to exist and the strategies that can help you overcome them.
Complex projects often have more than one critical path, and in order for the project to reach a successful completion, each of these paths must be carefully managed. Even if the primary path is achieved, a lack of progress on any of the follow-on paths could doom the project to failure in the long run.
Teams that execute these challenging projects need to be mindful of what it takes to manage multiple layers of requirements and actions. A strong awareness of all the paths that make up a project is critical if the Project Team wants to ensure that nothing falls behind schedule or drops off the radar.
If your center of excellence is facing a can’t-fail project with multiple paths, it’s important to understand the risks that exists and where opportunities for success can be found.
The risks behind multiple critical paths
One risk often encountered when executing projects with more than one critical path is the potential for tasks outside the primary path to be neglected. It’s easy for the project team and executives to be so focused on the primary critical path that other important issues outside of that narrow scope go unnoticed. Without a course correction, this fixation can cause the additional paths to become critical as well. Milestones might be missed or, as schedule adjustments are made to reflect the project’s progress against the target completion date, activities outside the primary critical path may not be properly re-sequenced.
If activities in one path begin to slip, it will eventually trigger problems for the team and could cause considerable grief to the project. The organization may need to spend more time or money to get progress back on track than was originally estimated. Not only could the project’s completion date be in jeopardy as a result, but the Project Team may also go over budget trying to set things right.
The other common risk arises when any of the secondary or tertiary paths overtakes the primary critical path in importance. Occurring most often as a result of failing to adequately attend to follow-on paths, one of these lower-priority paths could suddenly become the most important path when the team realizes they’re dangerously behind schedule or not prepared to execute activities as needed. The primary critical path is then at risk of also falling behind.
Tips to successfully manage multiple critical paths
Driving these complex efforts to a successful completion requires a cohesive methodology that delivers the necessary insight, while also providing the tools to act quickly and effectively.
Robust project controls are a vital component when managing multiple critical paths. The right project management methodology will enable the team to identify problem areas early. With insight into the project’s progress and a knowledge of potential challenges lurking on the horizon, the Project Team will be able to maintain sufficient awareness of not only the primary critical path, but also all everything that follows behind it.
Communication is another key to sustaining the right level of connection across all of the important paths that are part of the project. Information sharing should be a focus as the Project Team works to balance the needs of the critical path alongside those of the secondary and tertiary paths. Data must flow from the project team up to the executives to ensure everyone is aware of progress and issues. It will also need to be channeled from the leadership group down to the center of excellence. This may be in the form of strategic direction that influences project decisions or activity scheduling, or input to help resolve problems so the project can move forward.