How to Save a Project That's Gone Off the Rails 1) Acknowledge that things aren't going so great. It might seem painfully simple, but admitting there's a problem with the project's current trajectory is the first (and often most difficult) step to getting things back on course. The best way to get things rolling again is to bring your team's attention back to the project's original purpose and primary goals. As the project manager, it's your job to keep an eye on the ultimate goal -- especially when the project isn't headed in the right direction. How are you sharing information about individual team members' work? There are a ton of tools available at various price points, making it a great option for agencies of all sizes. Group meetings are a great way to share information and confirm everyone is focused on working towards the same goals, but individual, one-on-one meetings are still necessary to ensure the project is headed in the right direction. Instead, explain the issues straightforwardly and share your action plan for getting everything back on track. This is a great chance for people to dig into both the project's weak points and successes (however small). Try to acknowledge even seemingly small points of frustration, and plan on putting processes in place to avoid issues in the future.
No matter how much careful planning goes into a project, disaster can still strike when you least expect it. And when it does, it’s important for project managers to know how to minimize the damage and keep the team moving forward.
Sometimes, the signs are obvious: deadlines are being missed, your communication channels aren’t keeping everyone on the same page, and team members are confused about the scope of their individual responsibilities.
Other times, the signs a project is headed for trouble are more difficult to spot. Maybe team morale is a little lower than usual, or the project’s output doesn’t exactly meet your agency’s quality standards.
If your latest project seems like it’s spinning out of control, we’re here to help. We’ve outlined a basic project recovery plan to stop the bleeding and steer your team back on track. It won’t necessarily fix everything, but it’s a good place to start.
How to Save a Project That’s Gone Off the Rails
1) Acknowledge that things aren’t going so great.
It might seem painfully simple, but admitting there’s a problem with the project’s current trajectory is the first (and often most difficult) step to getting things back on course.
Whether you’re dealing with a big problem or some smaller difficulties, the earlier you acknowledge them, the better. If you leave those seemingly less urgent issues to fester, they could cause major project disruptions down the line. Be vigilant for signs of potential catastrophe.
Avoid playing the blame game. Gather your team for an emergency meeting to discuss exactly what’s going wrong and assess the damage. As the project manager, it might mean an ego hit to call out a project’s shortcomings, but it’s a necessary blow to get things back on the right path.
2) Reevaluate the project’s core objectives.
The best way to get things rolling again is to bring your team’s attention back to the project’s original purpose and primary goals. When things get chaotic, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, and people can get bogged down in the stressful details. The purpose can get lost in the frantic shuffle.
As the project manager, it’s your job to keep an eye on the ultimate goal — especially when the project isn’t headed in the right direction. At the kickoff meeting, you likely went over the project’s targets and milestones with your team — but it might be time for a refresher.
When you meet with your team, don’t just rehash everything from the initial kickoff meeting — make sure you take the time to identify where things have fallen off course. Are there any particular areas of your project plan that now seem unattainable? Any areas that require some careful reevaluation? Maybe something you thought would be a small component is actually demanding a lot more attention.
At this point, you can’t be afraid to be flexible.
It can seem absolutely terrifying to pull a 180-degree pivot midway through an…