How Keeping Your Project On Track Can Save Your Bacon


Every project starts with a clear set of objectives and a deadline within which to achieve them. Nevertheless, sticking to the schedule has its own challenges and as a project manager the buck stops with you when things go off track.  A report by Standish Group says less than a third of all projects are completed in time and within budget. Another study published by the Harvard Business Review shows that one in six IT projects surveyed had over 200% overrun in costs.

When a project fails then every member’s job is at risk. The weakest link to a successful project is the failure to stick to the outlined schedule, cost overruns, low quality work, etc. In some cases such failure may be due to unforeseen circumstances but the biggest cause of failed projects can in fact be avoided.

To save your bacon you need to know the major cause of such failure in order to prevent it before it happens. Remember with a good performance record you will not only enhance your professional standing but also open new doors of opportunity.

In a survey of project managers done by CIO some of the most common problems that contribute to failed projects include:

  1. Failure to inspire and get everyone behind the project’s vision: Without rallying your team behind the project you are headed for failure. When people work at cross purposes there will be numerous repeat orders and eventually the project will move off the delineated track.
  2. Poor task assignment: You need to assign the right people to the right tasks in order to stick to the schedule. This calls for intense evaluation of skills to understand who can do what best.
  3. Weak executive buy-in: All stakeholders must be on-board but more importantly someone in the higher offices must own the project in order to mobilize the resources needed.
  4. A very wide scope: It is good to be ambitious but then you must remember the resources you have are limited. More importantly the time allocated might not be enough to practically work on all the tasks. As a manager you need to limit the overall project scope for effective execution.
  5. Unrealistic timelines: It is important to keep clients happy by promising fast turnaround times but then you must be realistic. To successfully set timelines make sure you temper the client’s expectations in order to allow the team to work more effectively.
  6. Rigidity: Flexibility is a keyword in any project and you must be ready to review any aspect of the project as it continues. New information must be accepted as long as it helps the project move forward. It is important to regularly step back and assess how smoothly every aspect of the project is running.
  7. Micromanagement: This is one of the biggest of the biggest reasons why projects go off course. The best way to run a project is to give a clear schedule and a reporting mechanism to help you follow every aspect of the project as it progresses.
  8. Poor communication: Communication is the holy grail of any successful project. There must be defined communication channels for the team and other stakeholders. Regular updates must be made through the agreed channels in order to assess how well the project is running. According to Spikes Cavell Research 57% of all projects failures are due to communication breakdown.

There are many other reasons why your project can go off-track including scope creep, conflicts, lack of a clear vision among others. As a manager you need to regularly review the project and incorporate any new ideas that will help to meet the deadlines. More importantly everyone needs to own the project right from the start and to be proactively involved in its execution..

Keeping Your Project on Track to Avoid Failure

If your project does not adhere to the stipulated timeline it is headed for failure. Everything will start falling apart and eventually your client will be on your neck.  As the manager all stakeholders will pass the blame and the repercussions will obviously be devastating.

How does keeping your project on track help avoid all these problems? Here are some thoughts:

1. Effective Budget Management

One of the most challenging aspects of project management has to be requesting for additional funds.  Once you have presented the budget to the high office and it is approved everyone expects you have factored in all risks. Request for additional funds is considered as a sign of poor management.  If you ensure that the project runs on schedule you don’t have to worry about finances getting depleted prematurely or facing your bosses as you ask for more funds.

2. Client Satisfaction

What tells you that your project is successful? One of the key performance indicators (KPIs) in a project is customer satisfaction and this is one factor that will save you a lot of trouble. Modern projects are heavily monitored and evaluation is part of such monitoring. With a satisfied client you are assured of favorable industry reviews and this in turn opens new opportunities.

3. Avoiding Repeat Work

One of the biggest drains on project resources is repeat orders. When a client is not satisfied then you have to keep fine tuning your project until you get it right. In most cases such work will stretch the company resources which will in turn lead to reprimands from the management. By keeping your project on the right path you have ample time to provide regular reports to your client thus avoiding last minute changes.

4. Professional Integrity

Nothing besmirches your character as a project manager than failure. With the ease of information flow today your professional standing will take a beating and you can bet there will be no more projects coming your way. To protect your professional integrity you must strive to manage your project within the scope and deadline agreed with a client.

Essentially, failure to keep a project on track stymies your business and it is no wonder then that 50% of all new project management offices close within the first three years of operation according to KeyedIn. You must appreciate that your success relies on successful completion of every project and this means sticking to the schedule and meeting all objectives.

Final Word

The world of project management is capricious; one moment you might be on top and the next you are closing shop. To avoid this make sure you define the project’s vision and communicate the same to your team. You must also avoid scope creep by clearly setting out all the terms on the contract. Proper communication channels must also be set while intense research must be done before presenting the budget estimate. Through effective project tracking you will notice small variances in the project scope and you will be able to take appropriate action before things get out of hand.

Image: wEnDaLicious via Visual hunt


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