Project Rescue: Quick Tips To Get Your Project Back on Track

Is your project veering off course? Keep calm! Here's how to identify the root causes and steer your project back on track.

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Every project manager has experienced that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach as they realize their project isn't quite in the tip-top shape they'd like it to be (if you meet a PM who says this hasn't happened to them, they're either very new to the role or they're in denial!).

Despite meticulous planning and documentation, projects can still go off the rails.

Fortunately, there are proactive measures you can take to minimize the chances of derailment, mitigate the impact if it occurs, and implement strategies to prevent future mishaps or detect issues earlier.

How to recognize your project needs attention

A good project manager has a strong instinct for trouble. Trust that instinct. If you feel something isn't right, chase it down.

Keep an eye out for these common warning signs that may indicate trouble brewing:

  • Unresponsive clients: When clients fail to respond to emails, Slack messages, Trello comments, or continuously cancel calls, it could signify that their confidence in the project is waning. Proactively engage with the client to address their concerns and reestablish communication.
  • Ambiguous developer updates: If your developer provides updates that lack detail, they might be avoiding a problem that requires attention. Open the lines of communication and encourage transparency to address any underlying issues as a team.
  • Excessive backlog: A substantial backlog of tickets with insufficient time to complete them could signal potential problems. Review the backlog and work with your team to prioritize tasks, allocate resources effectively, and identify any underlying issues that may be causing the backlog to grow.

As a project manager, your responsibility is not necessarily to fix every problem but to bring it to the attention of those who can address it. Rely on your instincts to help you identify when something is off, and use the project controls in place to confirm your suspicions and apply corrective measures.


Pro tip

If you use a project planning software like Float, you can get a bird's-eye view of project progress, spot when people are underutilized or overbooked, and easily keep track of timelines and resource budgets.

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Deal with challenges to bring your project back on track

Projects can often encounter obstacles that require swift and effective action. You can ensure your project stays on course by recognizing these challenges and addressing them head-on.

Here's a closer look at some common challenges and strategies to overcome them.

Challenge #1: Disengaged client

When clients become disengaged, it's crucial to re-establish communication, identify the root causes of their concerns, and work collaboratively to address them. This helps ensure the project stays on track and maintains a strong relationship between your team and the client.

  1. Schedule a catch-up call: Proactively reach out to the client and suggest a call to discuss their concerns. During the call, give them your undivided attention and focus on understanding their viewpoint. They may have been preoccupied with other tasks or lost confidence in the project's direction. By engaging in open communication, you can gauge their level of involvement and re-establish their commitment to the project.
  2. Address confidence issues: If the client's confidence has waned, openly ask what measures you can take to restore it. Depending on their concerns, offer additional meetings to review the project's progress, provide demonstrations of completed work, or involve them more in critical decision-making processes. Increasing their involvement and offering tailored support can alleviate their concerns and ensure they are well-informed about the project's status.
  3. Involve other stakeholders: Inform the project's primary stakeholders about the situation and consider including them in the conversation if necessary. Their presence and support can help reassure the client that the organization is committed to resolving their concerns. Additionally, these stakeholders can provide valuable insights, resources, or connections that can help get the project back on track.

Challenge #2: The team isn't delivering as expected

When the team isn't delivering as expected, it's essential to address the issue constructively and supportively without causing panic or demoralization. The goal is to identify the underlying causes, provide guidance, and create an environment that fosters improvement and teamwork.

  1. Stay calm and maintain perspective: As the project leader, it is essential to keep a level head and remember that projects are rarely life-or-death situations. Your demeanor sets the tone for the team, so it's vital to stay calm and foster an atmosphere of open communication and a problem-solving mindset. This approach encourages the team to work together and tackle challenges with confidence and determination.
  2. Address individual underperformance: If a team member is underperforming, schedule a one-on-one check-in to offer support and understanding. During the meeting, focus on empathy and active listening to identify any issues affecting their performance. Consult their line manager for additional context and insight into their situation. This check-in aims to provide the necessary support and resources to help the team member improve and reach their potential.
  3. Address team-wide issues: For challenges affecting the entire team, organize a project reset call or retrospective meeting to gather feedback and pinpoint areas needing improvement. Encourage honest feedback from the group and carefully analyze recurring themes that emerge. Collaboratively develop action plans to address the concerns raised by the team and prioritize implementing these changes as soon as possible. Demonstrating that their voices are being heard and taken seriously helps to build trust, improve team morale, and create a more effective working environment.

Challenge #3: Project constraints are starting to be an obstacle

When project constraints, such as budget or deadlines, become obstacles, it's important to explore creative solutions, maintain flexibility, and collaborate with stakeholders to ensure a successful outcome. Balancing expectations and resources is vital to overcoming these challenges.

  1. Reevaluate and adjust the project plan: Regularly review the project plan and consider adjusting timelines, scope, or resources as needed. Establish a robust change management process to handle unexpected shifts in the project's requirements or constraints. This proactive approach ensures the team is prepared for changes and can adapt accordingly, minimizing disruptions and maintaining progress.
  2. Break the project into smaller phases: Dividing the project into smaller, more manageable phases or milestones can help ensure the project stays on track. This approach allows you to prioritize essential tasks, monitor progress more effectively, and identify opportunities for future phases. In tandem, develop and maintain a risk management plan to identify potential risks and create appropriate mitigation strategies, ensuring the project stays on course despite unforeseen challenges.
  3. Consider agile methodologies: Adopting agile methods, such as scrum or kanban, can help teams adapt to changing requirements and deliver value iteratively. Collaborate closely with the team and client to prioritize tasks and continuously reassess the project's direction based on evolving needs and feedback. Agile approaches foster a flexible mindset, maintain the project's momentum, and increase the likelihood of achieving a successful outcome that satisfies both the client and your team.

Embrace challenges and foster growth

It's important to remember that setbacks and challenges are a natural part of any project.

You can navigate these obstacles by staying calm, proactive, and solution-oriented and bringing your project back on track. Always be open to learning from these experiences and refining your processes to minimize future risks.

Collaboration and communication are essential in creating a supportive environment that fosters growth and resilience. As a project manager, your role is to lead and empower your team, but remember that you're only human, and it's okay to make mistakes. Embrace these challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, and remember that success is a collective effort.

Stay positive, and together, you and your team will overcome any hurdles that come your way!



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Make realistic plans and keep a grasp of capacity and progress to reduce the risk of projects going off track.

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