How to Put the “Pro” in Project Management
When my wife and I were expecting our first child 11 years ago, it was completely new territory for us. Being new parents, we could only prepare ourselves for what automatically came with having a new baby. Diapers, bottles, crib…those were the essentials that we needed to make sure our little one could survive comfortably.
What we didn’t expect to happen was that our daughter would be born with a clubbed foot. We also didn’t expect to spend the first four days in the NICU treating a breathing condition and irregular heartbeat. Even after we left the hospital, there were things we hadn’t planned for that we were having to deal with on a daily basis. But being prepared for the things that we knew were going to happen made dealing with the unexpected a little easier. Sorta…
The same can be said with how you approach projects in your business. If your projects are anything like mine, they usually involve a series of milestones that need to be finished in a timely manner and under budget. But what happens when further direction needs to come directly from your client and they’re unresponsive? Or what if a member of your team that’s responsible for a portion of the project is out of commission with the flu? How do you plan for that? The truth is you’ll never be able to plan for those kinds of interruptions
But not all hope is lost. Interruptions do not have to equal the derailment of your project.
If you’ve created thorough processes that allow you to handle the typical facets of a project, you should be able to execute those tasks on autopilot, sometimes even completing those tasks ahead of schedule. The goal is to execute those tasks with as little time (and brainpower) as possible. Doing so will gain you some additional capacity in your timelines to allow for interruptions you didn’t account for.
So how do you handle “the unexpected”? It’s actually simpler than you might think. I have a few questions that I usually ask myself when faced with something out of left field.
- Can I move forward with the project without resolving this issue?
- If not, what additional resources (time, people, money, etc.) will I need to resolve this issue?
- Can I resolve this issue and still meet the original ‘in-hands date’ for the customer/client?
If the answer to question 1 is yes, then you really don’t have an issue at all. It’s important to determine if the interruption is actually related to the project you’re currently working on, especially if you have multiple projects going at the same time for a particular client.
If the answer to question 1 is no, then you’ll need to assess what people will need to be involved in helping you resolve this issue, how much time it will take you to resolve it, and whether you can resolve it under the agreed-upon budget. Remember, we’re in the business of making money, so it not only has to make sense for the client, but for your company as well.
Once you’ve answered question 2 and have formulated your plan, check to see if you can still deliver on the client’s original delivery date. In most cases, I have found that clients are quite flexible on when they need deliverables in hand. As long as you’re communicating with your client when you hit a roadblock and how that may affect your delivery date, they will likely be understanding if you’re a day or two late on the original timeline. Communication is always key.
So don’t fret when things aren’t going to plan. Take a deep breath, assess your situation, and if all else fails, have a diaper handy to contain the mess!