Time sensitive projects tend to trigger their own sets of risks and challenges. Scheduling is the most obvious hurdle, as multiple tasks often need to overlap to ensure everything is done in a short amount of time. Any tolerance for delays is also close to zero, leaving the project team to carefully orchestrate task handoffs and activity closeouts so nothing runs past its allotted calendar window.
But there are additional issues teams are likely to encounter during urgent projects that might come as a surprise. Resource conflicts and sponsor expectations are among the elements that don’t always follow normal practices when time is tight.
If you’re getting ready to tackle an urgent project, be aware of these unexpected things your team might encounter.
You’ll have a long list of external collaborators to coordinate. Project teams facing short deadlines frequently turn to outside resources to get them through the time crunch. This tendency to bring in support from more vendors, business partners, and even industry advisors means you’ll be orchestrating a wider variety and deeper field of external contributors than usual. A robust communication strategy and development of a detailed project network diagram are keys to successfully keeping your broad group of collaborators in sync and on time.
Stakeholders will have less availability to participate. Time-sensitive projects create an interesting conundrum—your team must accomplish things faster, but stakeholders have less time available to contribute to the project. This is because your end users and other supporters are focused on moving things forward within their own job areas and don’t have the flexibility to participate in higher-level project tasks. They may skip training sessions or push back on requests to attend meetings. You can help ease the time crunch by holding hybrid project discussions so people can join without leaving their work areas and offering training either online or outside normal working hours. Making project activities more flexible trims the time commitments stakeholders must make while preserving their energy for those activities that require their participation.
The normal time pressures are amplified when urgent projects are also strategic projects. Delays in any project are rarely welcome, but because many urgent projects are also strategically vital to the organization, adherence to the timeline becomes even more of a must-have. Delays, even small ones, could lead to severely diminished market share, revenue-draining customer dissatisfaction, a loss of trust among your network of business partners, and even financial penalties related to missed regulatory deadlines. Your urgent project may essentially be too strategically important to fail, and your sponsors are likely to want more monitoring, more frequent updates, and more visible signs of progress than usual. Arm your team now with the right tools and technologies to weather increased scrutiny around schedule alignment, which is a hallmark of projects that are both urgent and strategic.
Sponsors and senior stakeholders have new worries to manage. It’s usually the project team members who are concerned about snafus negatively affecting their career prospects. But the pressure really mounts when the failure of an urgent project would reflect badly on the executives and leadership staff. They may have legitimate fears about damaged careers and ruined reputations if an urgent and strategically critical effort falls short. This pressure could lead sponsors to have unreasonable expectations and thus make unreasonable demands. The situation may call for some skilled negotiations and the perspective of a neutral party to find compromises and solutions for project risks and challenges that deliver the best outcomes. The earlier you prepare your team for that type of high-stakes environment, the more capably you can manage sponsors’ concerns.