Project managers know that many factors can contribute to the delays in projects, which are known as schedule slippage. In fact, even well planned projects will encounter delays on many aspects, such as in materials delivery, so schedule slippage is an all too common occurrence.

Before cancelling the project, here are a few measures that can be adopted to get the project back on track. Keep in mind that not all of the following measures are applicable in all instances, thus, emphasising the importance of identifying the causes for the schedule slippage.

Basically, you have to identify the factors resulting in the discrepancy between what should be and what is. You can then take the appropriate action or series of actions. For example, in case of specific tasks causing the delays, the better action is to add expert resources but when artificial task dependency is the one causing the delay, then eliminating it is the better option.

Fast Track the Work

Fast tracking on projects means performing activities in a parallel manner, either partially or totally, instead of performing these in a sequence. In this way, the project’s tasks can be done simultaneously instead of a sequence, thus, fast tracking the achievement of the desired results.

For example, in building a house, you cannot install the frame until the foundation has dried. But in a large house, fast tracking the project means erecting the frame on the part where the foundation has dried while the foundation on the other side is being poured.

Just keep in mind that fast tracking has risks including increased costs and future reworking. As with any of the measures mentioned here, a cost-benefit analysis should be performed before fast tracking.

Work Overtime

While not everybody may be on board about working extra hours to counter schedule slippage, working overtime may be the first solution. When your team members are working more hours, such as 3 hours after 5 in the afternoon, everybody is likely to get more done within the same calendar days. The assumption here is that everybody actually works on the project instead of spending time on unproductive activities unrelated to the must-do tasks.

Working overtime typically works best when the project is nearing completion. Think of it as the final push that will get everything done on schedule but be sure to take into account the cost implications.

Recommended Reading: How to Avoid Project Failure

Reallocate Resources

Perhaps the project is off schedule because of ineffective and inefficient allocation of resources, such as when the wrong people were assigned to the tasks or when the budget was insufficient for the jobs. You should then identify the activities considered as the most crucial for the project’s success, known as the critical path, and then reallocate the resources to these activities.

But there are risks to reallocating resources, too. Keep in mind that reallocation resources and, thus, delaying a few tasks within the project will change the critical path. With each change in resources and schedule, the critical path will change and the outcomes may change, too.

Swap People

While you may have carefully studied the personal traits and professional qualifications of your team members before task delegation, you may have committed a few mistakes along the way. For example, a team member may be unsuitable for the task because of his relative lack of experience, or because of his inability to work well with the rest, or because of his unwillingness to learn.

In this case, you should look into swapping people between tasks. You may even think about replacing an old team member and bringing in a new one.

Again, be sure to look at the critical path when swapping people. For example, you may swap an underperforming person to non-critical path activities while reassigning a high-performing person to critical path activities, even assigning more tasks to the latter.

Crash the Schedule

This means the application of additional resources to the sequence of activities that must be achieved on schedule, thus, ensuring that the entire project is completed based on the timeline (i.e., critical path). Keep in mind that crashing the schedule does not only mean throwing more resources but, more importantly, getting the largest schedule gain for the lowest amount of incremental costs.

For example, you can assign two persons to accomplish the tasks, which means earlier completion. Plus, you are not actually adding incremental costs because you are just applying double the resources to achieve the goals in half the time expected.

The additional resources for crashing the schedule can come from two sources, namely, from within your project team or from outside the team usually on a loan basis. Just remember that your goal in crashing the schedule is two-fold, namely, to catch up with the schedule slippage and to minimize the incremental costs.

Improve the Processes

Even in a well-planned project, there will always be room for improvement. You should then always be on the lookout for processes and procedures that can be improved, thus, contributing to a more effective and efficient accomplishment of the desired results.

The room for improvement where processes are concerned can come from two sides. First, look at the team’s internal processes that can be streamlined, such as bottlenecks in the production, status meetings with little value, and idle equipment. Second, look at the external processes affecting the team’s productivity, such as delivery of materials.

Double-check All Dependencies

Projects usually have scheduled activities that should be completed in a certain order, thus, the term schedule dependencies. Going back to the house-building example, you cannot install the frame when the foundation has yet to dry.

When you are experiencing project delays, you should look at the schedule dependencies. The schedule may be lengthened, for example, by invalid dependencies between tasks in which these invalid dependencies prevent tasks from being performed in parallel.

Ultimately, bringing the project back on track requires the identification of the cause of delays and then the determination of the best course of action. Use your years of experience as well as your education and training in doing so and, thus, make it possible to achieve the goals on time despite these temporary delays.