Giving Your Project a Reality Check
By Christopher Scordo PMP, ITIL
No project will run perfectly. It's easy to
get caught up in the bigger picture, but the smaller working parts are forever changing
when it comes to projects. A client might want to do something a bit differently,
a member of your team might run into unforeseen trouble, or things might simply
just not go according to plan.
It’s therefore important to “reality check” your project from time to time. Realty
checking doesn’t need to take a lot time or use up all your resources, in fact,
the quicker the reality check – the better. A reality check should be designed to
help everyone working on the project see exactly where they stand. It’s not about
pointing fingers and blaming people, but reworking what needs to be changed and
reshuffling priorities. If there are any issues which have been bubbling under the
surface, they can be looked at and addressed.
When it comes to reality checking a project, it's vital to remember that it's not
a one-time process but a step that will help refine the efficiency of your project
every time you use it. Sometimes this process takes a serious meeting, other times
an informal stand up meeting will work just fine.
There are three important questions which will help project managers with a reality
check. They are:
Has the Scope of the Project Changed? All projects go through changes
and small requirements are often tweaked as things progress. Scope here means work
needed to deliver the end product. Let's use an example; if the original project
specified a software program which allows team members to log time on different
work tasks and has changed to something which also allows clients to see how the
team members are interacting with each other via chat logs, then the scope has changed.
The reason for the change might be a good and valid reason, but you need to face
the reality that you might need additional resources and additional time to make
the project work. This doesn't need to be a blame game, it's simply acknowledging
that things have changed slightly and then reworking it to accommodate those changes.
Does the Project have Sufficient Team Resources to Meet Deadlines?
Being overworked and burning out is a major hazard, specifically when it comes to
software projects. If you're on a tight deadline, there's rarely time to get new
people up to speed. Even with management vehemently committed, team members might
still feel like they can’t cope with the amount of work and become overwhelmed by
the impending deadline.
Instead of leaving your team quietly worrying, reality checks allow for re-scheduling
if completing the work within the deadline is absolutely not feasible. The goals
set by the project manager or the stakeholders are important but, it's all down
to those actually doing the work. If the team is constantly worried about finishing
their assigned tasks on time, and over time becomes the norm, something's gotta
Is the Project Budget Still on Target? One of the worst things
that could happen to a project manager is coming to the end of a project and realizing
you have miscalculated the budget. As a project manager, it’s your responsible to
continuously forecast and maintain the funds allocated to your project. Finding
additional funds to cover costs, whether that means renegotiating with a client,
should be done immediately as needed. Budgeting in advance for unexpected costs
will also determine whether you can bring in additional resources to help you get
your project back on track. Typical projects budget in a 10-20% budget “buffer”
when providing initial estimates.
Giving your project a reality check is vital not just for you as a project manager,
but also for the health and effectiveness of your team. As so often mentioned, how
your team is coping is crucial to how well your project gets done and whether your
clients are happy in the end. Never underestimate the role constant communication
plays – talk to your team and to all those involved in the project as often as you
can, this will go a long way to ensure everybody is happy in the end.