You’ve seen it happen: A supposedly small-scale project grows steadily out of proportion, sucking in resources and making your team work exhausting hours with no end in sight. Before you know it, the project you’re charged with managing is managing you.
While you can’t predict when this will occur, you can take action to lessen its impact on the team. Whatever its scope, every project has a similar lifestyle: It flows from beginning to middle to end to reach its ultimate goal. Take these measures to keep projects from spiraling out of control:
Plan ahead. Accurately calculate the resources available and the workload required. Start with the project’s due date and work backward, creating a detailed timeline to track progress. Establish a measurable objective, and make sure everyone stays focused on it. But first, make sure you have the answers to these questions:
• Why does the project exist?
• What is it intended to deliver?
• Who will assume responsibility for the project?
• What will the project deliver?
• When will it be completed?
• How much will it cost?
Prioritize. Whatever doesn’t contribute to the project’s completion should be excluded. If that means bypassing another department’s input, especially if that department has no real stake in the process, do it. The project’s success rests on your ability to carve out the time and resources needed.
Communicate. Communicate with the team working on the project and others invested in its outcome. Conduct brief but regular check-ins, and let everyone know they should alert you of any unforeseen obstacles.
Stay focused. Sometimes a team gets lost in the process itself and loses sight of the endpoint. Stay focused on what the project is supposed to deliver and when.
Be the leader. The success of the project depends on your ability to make key decisions and keep things moving forward. Be the leader you’re capable of being.