Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - How to Successfully Manage and Overcome Project Delays

How to Successfully Manage and Overcome Project Delays

According to Workamajig, only 2.5 percent of companies complete their projects 100 percent successfully. Many factors impact project success, but one aspect that can be severely costly to project productivity are project delays.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where interruptions are inevitable. Whether a colleague has to call out sick or a client wants a rework of their deliverables, many things can lead to delays. While you want to do everything you can to prevent these events, you will likely have to manage a situation of project delays. How can you overcome these situations once they happen? How do you manage project delays?

Here are some tips on how to handle project delays and project interruptions.

Be Realistic About Deadlines

There is the preferred deadline that you can meet if nothing goes wrong, and then there is the realistic date that you will likely get everything done by. It's critical that you add in lead time for each of your projects before and after a delay. If you are having to go back and rework a project, you need to be realistic with yourself, your team, and clients about when you can get project deliverables their way.

This deadline should consider the resources you have, constraints, specific requirements, and potential setbacks. The more truthful you are about deadlines, the better chance you will give yourself and your teams to overcome and project delays and produce a product that meets your clients' expectations.

Take Initial Delays Seriously

Before the entire project is derailed, it likely started with the failure to meet one or two milestones. The best way to address these issues is by paying close attention to a project's rhythm and seeing where cracks are starting to appear.

If you can catch the first deadline failure, you can begin to refocus and update your clients on any further deadline changes that need to happen. This situation is why it's so important to have various checks when it comes to managing your projects. Keeping an eye on how you are progressing through milestones can give you a heads-up on the potential for more considerable delays

Implement the Right Software Tools

Technology cannot solve everything. Nevertheless, having the right tools and resources will definitely help. It's hard to track what you do not measure, and software apps will enable you to keep up with how things are going. Tools like Asana, Trello, Airtable,, and others give you the chance to assign tasks, set milestones, communicate with team members, and set up times for meetings. Sixty-one percent of companies using project management tools completed projects on time. So, there is a significant incentive to incorporate these apps into your project processes.

Keeping a solid record of every component of the project on a project management tool enables you to view where things went wrong and reorganize your efforts to overcome any potential delays.

Understand the Positives Associated with Delays

It's so easy to categorize all delays as unfavorable. However, a delay can actually allow you to take a minute to realign yourself and improve the quality of project deliverables. A delay can also prevent you from producing an inferior product, enable you to rework a strategy or give you the opportunity to add more features to a product or service that can benefit your client and customers.

It's essential that you frame delays in a realistic and positive sense for your team, so they don't think they are fighting a losing battle but working on a project that can actually come out to benefit the company and the client.

Stress and pressure can come with a project delay, and it can impact the entirety of the realignment process. However, if you establish the positive impact that this event can have on your team and their work, it can contribute to your benefit and give them the motivation they need to work toward completion.

Get All Third-Party Vendors on Board

You are likely working with vendors and third-party organizations to help bring your project to fruition. Because these people are not directly on your teams or in your office, then it's possible that they can miss out on vital project deadlines and details.

While you may not be in a place to give them access to all your project information, you need to involve them in your project processes and inform them of delays. This step could mean pulling them into morning meetings or adding them to your task delegation software. Whatever changes you are making, don't forget to communicate this information to your vendors.

Consider All Your Options

If you are experiencing a project delay, don't forget that you have options. Extending the deadline isn't the only choice you have. You could alter deliverables, discuss bringing in additional resources like money or labor, or having a conversation with your clients about changing the project scope.

Before you select a choice, be sure to get insights from all involved. Discuss these options with your team, leadership, and even the clients themselves. Before you know it, you may be able to bypass having to push out a deadline.

Get Everyone on the Same Page

Once you have decided on the best approach to take with the project, the next best step is to get everyone on the same page. You should come up with a new project plan that incorporates all the new provisions. It should especially include a timeline that consists of the revised timeline that includes the delay.

All of these changes need to be communicated to clients, leadership, team members, and all third-party vendors that are a part of the project plan. You may also want to fill in your customers if you have to adjust a previously advertised product release. Therefore, getting everyone on the same page is crucial to getting to the finish line.

Lastly, it's essential to be transparent and honest about this process. Understanding where things went wrong and creating a plan to deal with them requires these principles.

Project Delays Don't Have to Derail Your Project

Yes, morale can definitely suffer if your team has experienced a project delay. Nevertheless, this doesn't have to be the end of the world. A project delay can cause you to re-evaluate your current product, improve upon it, and even change the project's success scope entirely. The first thing you have to do when dealing with this issue is to settle all emotions.

It is tempting to let the stress level rise, but taking this approach will only cause more issues. Be sure to calm your team and be realistic about what you can and cannot do with the current changes. With the right planning and strategy, you can overcome project delays to produce exceptional deliverables for your clients.


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