The deadline is tomorrow, you’re down a team member, and the “realistic” budget has quickly become a pipe dream. The client wants to see results by 9 a.m. Yikes!
Does this situation make your stomach churn? I’m stressed just thinking about it. It’s inevitable for there to be road blocks and unexpected hurdles when working on a project. If contingency plans haven’t been put in place—a ripple effect of unfortunate events is often caused—which may include missing the big deadline.
Sadly, I have yet to find a magic list of tips to help completely eliminate everything that can possibly go wrong. But, if you can anticipate these things, you have a better chance at keeping your project on track.
The Triple Constraints
You don’t need “project manager” in your title to organize and manage a project successfully from start to finish. I recently attended a project management workshop and took away helpful planning advice including how to identify your “triple constraints,” which are always time, cost and performance/scope.
It helps to answer these questions first: How long do you have to complete the project? What resources are available and how much budget do you have to work with? Lastly, what does your project have to achieve to meet its goal?
Let’s say the project at hand is to create a new website for a company that has been around for over 20 years. The triple constraints of this project may be the client’s resistance to change (performance/scope), lack of coding knowledge (cost), and the demand that the website go live in three months (time). Rank them from most important to least, and be proactive. Plan for potential crises and map out solutions ahead of time.
Above all, expect the unexpected. We can all relate to that moment when the scope of the project abruptly changes and the team is sent into panic mode. What do you do when you’re in the thick of a problem likely to derail the entire project? Take a deep breath and follow these steps to help generate solutions and maintain control.
Step 1: Define the problem and analyze it
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to define exactly what needs to be fixed so everyone on the team is on the same page. Remember to ask these three questions: What is happening? Why is it happening? What should be happening?
It’s also important to avoid placing blame on a fellow team member. The last thing you want is for needless conflict during an already stressful time. Seek acknowledgement from your team members that they also recognize there is a snafu that needs to be resolved and a commitment from everyone to work together to find a solution.
Gather all available data and pinpoint how the problem is impacting the project. Using our website example, if the client just requested a new layout after the developer already completed this process, it may mean the launch date gets pushed back and more money than budgeted has to be put towards the design/development phase.
Step 2: Brainstorm solutions and make a decision
Schedule time (this can be brief) to brainstorm ideas. Quantity is more important than quality at this point. Don’t waste valuable time listing all the reasons why one idea won’t work. Instead, gather a wide range of ideas to sift through. We’ve all sat in a brainstorm where one or two people constantly shoot down ideas. It doesn’t exactly motivate you to speak up. Keep an open mind during this session.
Towards the end of the brainstorm, narrow down the ideas and go for it! Time may be of the essence so choose wisely and run with it.
Step 3: Evaluate and celebrate
Once the project—or that portion of the project—is complete and you (hopefully) reached your goal successfully, evaluate the solution that was implemented. What worked well, how can it be improved the next time, and was there anything you did not anticipate?
Keep team morale high and celebrate! Whether it’s after work drinks or a team lunch, everyone needs a moment to breathe a sigh of relief following a big project. Then it’s onto the next!