Planning Your Projects Backwards

In time-limited projects everyone is always looking at the timeline. Departments can start fighting with each other over a few days difference of opinion and things can get out of hand if anyone feels they have been put under more pressure than the rest of the team. Which is why its even more important to keep things fair when there are delays.

What Not to Do

Delays can happen for any number of reasons. Maybe there is already a contingency plan in place or perhaps it was something completely unexpected. However it happens, it will always add stress to a team if they are working with a hard deadline. Once the delay is defined, it can seem like there is nothing left to do but update the project plan and see the effect on the completion date. But shifting a 9 month-duration project back so that it finishes two months after the target date will not create a fair outcome. The beginning and middle phases of the project will still appear to be on-track and only the end of the project will seem to creep over the completion date. This turns a problem which belongs to everyone (project will complete late) into something that appears to be the fault of the closing steps of the project.

Changing the Perspective

Instead of moving the project back at the current date to accommodate the delay, rebuild the project plan going backwards from a fixed completion date so that it now starts further back in the past after the delay. We end up with what the plan should have been if we had known about the problem when creating the plan. This subtle change of perspective means that action-owners at the beginning and middle of the project will look at the plan and see that they should have already completed their tasks. And this changes the focus completely because it is no longer the activities at the end of a project that need to compress in order to deliver on time, it becomes everyone’s responsibility to see where they can find improvements.

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