When projects go off-track (which they often do), project managers need to take swift corrective action. This starts with understanding why your project went off-track in the first place, then creating an action plan, then communicating and executing that plan.
Step 1: Assess the Situation
Get as much information as you can about the current state of the project. This may involve reviewing the history of the project or task in your project management system, as well as interviewing the people who have been working on the project.
Step 2: Measure the Impact
What is the impact of the issue? Is it merely an inconvenience? Or does it shift the entire scope or delivery timeline of the project? Understanding the ramifications can help you determine how aggressive your corrective action needs to be.
Step 3: Build a Plan
The corrective action rarely only affects the project manager. Typically it will require the team to adjust priorities or shift resources. To build the plan, get the key players in the room to formulate the plan. Take detailed notes about the cause of the situation, and the next steps to resolve the issue.
Step 4: Communicate
Depending again on the severity of the issue and your stakeholders, you may need to communicate the plan. Share your resolution plan quickly and efficiently (with a minimum of excuses). Address any questions or comments promptly.
Step 5: Execute
Truly getting your project back on track is dependent on this step. How well you execute the action plan will determine how efficiently you can recover from the issue. Make sure your team members have clear information about the steps they are responsible for, as well as their timelines for delivery.
Step 6: Plan for the Future
Once you’ve corrected the immediate issue facing your project, it is good to spend some time to understand why the risk occurred, and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the future. If the issue was caused by a breakdown in communication with your client, then you may want to review your communication strategy. If it was because a key resource had a family emergency, it might be time to put a redundancy plan in place.