Anyone who is involved in managing projects will encounter project delays. Does it sound familiar to you? Project delay means the project completion date is extended to a new date in the future. If there are some activities or deliverables that are behind schedule, the project is not delayed provided the activities are not on Project Critical Path. Your project can re-scheduled but it may cost more. And this will affect your profit.
You can all the books and attend the courses, but the most important part of managing the project is the APPLICATION of your knowledge, tools and techniques and your personal skills. Project management is both art and science.
If you are a project manager or project team member, most probably you shall encounter project delays. You are not alone. Personally, I have been involved in hundreds of projects in the last forty years from my involvement in managing government projects, business projects, as project consultants and contractors. Been there and done that in full cycle. Now, I teach project management to project managers.
May I ask you about the last project that you did-is it completed on time or delayed? Congratulation if you get the job on time. If it was delayed, what were contributing factors or reasons for the delay? Get the list written down and do your post-mortem so that you can document the lessons learnt. It will be a good knowledge management practice so that you and your team can learn from past experience for your next project. From my observation, be it in government or private sector practice, knowledge management and lessons learnt are not their normal practice. That is why the project team keeps doing the same mistakes again and again. History is teaching us what we have failed to learn!
The pre-requisite before you start any project is you must have a project plan. This is the biggest sources of the problems you shall encounter at the execution stage of the project. The old saying that you must read many times and ignored: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. From my personal experience, even if we plan very well, we can still fail to complete the job on time. Many issues and problems arise at the execution stage of the project.
It is not my intention to give Project Management 101 course note here but I wish to share and highlight a few points that need your attention:
Many project plans are inadequate and do not get the right from all the project stakeholders. The project Schedule is NOT the project plan. It is part of the project plan. Project Plan must have a project schedule plan, resources plan, financial plan, communication plan, risk management plan and stakeholders management plan. For details, please check the Project Management Body of Knowledge(PMBOK) from the Project Management Institute. All parties must get involved in making the plan so that the plan belongs to everyone.
At the execution stage, you shall see whether your plan is working as you plan. You need to minor and control every week to ensure there will be no delays in all the project activities. Small delay from one week and lead to one month delay. One month delay, if not managed and controlled properly can lead to one year delay. One year delay can cost you a lot of money and also lose the client-present and future. Every activity consists of men, materials, money, machines and method. Anything can go wrong with any component of this activity. In one bridge project costing $8 million where I was a turnkey contractor, we had 1500 activities. We had delays due to the supply of labourers and materials that cost my company $300,000. Even though the contract was extended(given an extension of time), we incurred extra costs due to higher material costs and overhead. Again, I want to high light, delays caused money and even the reputation of the contractors or vendors. So watch out for signs that cause delay and mitigate its effects.
Another important component that has a big impact on completing the project on time is the project management ability and capacity of the organisation to manage and complete the project. This involves the project champion, the project manager, the project team and the project organisation. Many a time, the project fails due to the incompetent project delivery system.
In managing projects, some of the activities are done by others outside your organisations. They are your subcontractors, suppliers and consultants. There is a lot of negotiation and coordination work that needs to be done to align all activities in congruence to achieving the project objectives.
Many delays start with small problems but these small problems are allowed to get bigger day by day by the lower management. There must be an escalation plan to manage delays. The system must be in place so that the right person must make the right decision on time.
If you encounter a delay, meet head-on. If you cannot solve the issue/problem, immediately escalate to the higher level. In the event that delay prolongs, the project may be terminated. And that will be a disaster for business.
Podcast Note: You can listen to my talks on Project Management topics at Simply Project Podcast on Spotify for free. Thank you for reading.