So your project is in trouble of missing a deadline – welcome to project management. Every PM professional with any sort of experience will go through this, many times. One technique that I’ve found works well with customers who are upset over your schedule, or lack of adherence to it is to be 1) brutally honest about where you are at and 2) creative and detailed in your plan of attack to mitigate your schedule overrun. In this post I’m going to walk through addressing a project schedule crisis by building a plan that over-communicates to your customer.
Break it Down
It’s easy to show a project timeline on a quarter-by-quarter or even monthly breakdown. What this level of planning omits are the critical details of what is to be done in each time period. When your project is in crisis mode, it’s hopefully on the tail end (where most schedule issues occur) to the point where the time remaining that you need is not to the point where it needs to be expressed on a quarterly basis. When building your response plan to a schedule issue, you should try your best to do a week-by-week breakdown of activities. This not only gives your client the sense that you’ve thought things through and are not missing anything but that it gives you a solid plan as well. I segue to my next point.
Show Your Work
Showing detail in your plan is vital to helping maintain (or re-establish confidence) with your client that you have a plan of attack and that it’s achievable. By listing out all of the tasks that need to happen in a given week it allows your client to understand what to expect, and it also gives your team a sense of priorities in terms of what needs to be the focus of the week. Thirdly, as a visual communicator, I like it because it gives me that list of items I can quickly and easily go through at status meetings (both with my team and the client) to prove progress as well as discuss any issues encountered with any of these tasks.
Communicate Progress & Roadblocks
By having a detailed plan, broken out in a weekly basis, it provides an easy platform for you as a PM to communicate how things are going with your client. Depending on how detailed your project plan is that was previously shared (and I’m guessing it’s not super detailed), your client will likely be pleased to see the level of detail that is being reviewed on a constant basis when looking at progress. This method also works great for pointing out issues or roadblocks with your task list (ex. if your client needs to provision some IT infrastructure on your behalf to carry out your task), it’s easy to point out and illustrate the ramifications of not clearing that roadblock in a timely manner.
Project crises are never fun, however the cooler you remain and show your client that you have a plan to address your schedule shortcomings, the more cooperative your client is going to be in supporting you and your team get the project over the finish line.