Lately, I’ve been hearing (and seeing) a lot of projects from my colleagues simply stop. They have good intentions, but for whatever reason, things head downhill fast. Things don’t get done in time, the project goes over budget, people lose motivation and the project eventually doesn’t get done.
It could happen any number of ways. The issues could be personnel; it could be technical; it could be tactical. But the bottom line is: things didn’t get done.
How can you keep this from happening? How can you keep your projects from going off course and stop wasting so much time and energy? Follow these guidelines.
Set Tolerance Levels Early On
Projects should start off with goals for both the amount of time and money it’ll cost. When you set these goals, you should also set your tolerance levels. That’s how much over budget (time or money) the project can go before it needs to be reviewed.
For example, you might set your tolerance level at 10%. If a project was supposed to cost $1,000 and it’s on track to cost $1,100, then it’s within tolerance. If it looks like it’s going to cost $1,500, then it’s time to re-evaluate.
Set Regularly Milestones
Set milestones regularly and check in with people around these milestones. Break large projects and large tasks into smaller pieces so you can check in with people more regularly.
For example, if your project involves editing a series of videos, you might break the milestones down by video, then by specific actions. For example, one milestone would be filming Part 1 of Video #1.
This allows you to spot lags and possible snags early on, rather than be surprised when the project as a whole isn’t done later on.
Recognize Warning Signs
Learn to recognize the early warning signs that a project might be going downhill. Here are a few key warning signs:
- Staff members losing interest. If people seem like they’re dragging their feet to work on a project, that could be a big red flag.
- Lack of communication. If mistakes are being made but you’re not being kept in the loop, something probably needs to change.
- Constant changes. If people are constantly changing the product, the methodologies or the criteria for success, that’s usually actually an advanced form of procrastination.
- Far off tolerance levels or milestones. If your staff is far off from the milestones or tolerance levels you set beforehand, that’s another big sign the project is off course.
If you notice any of these red flags, have an honest talk with your team members. Ask them if they think the project is on track. Discuss what could be done to improve things as a team. Make sure you approach the discussion as a “we,” as a team with a common goal, rather than blaming individuals for failure.
What things do you do to make sure your projects stay on course?