How do I get things back on track on a very important project that is falling apart?

Hello, this is Laura Lee Rose – author of TimePeace: Making peace with time – and I am a business and efficiency coach that specializes in time management, project management and work-life balance strategies. I help busy professionals and entrepreneurs create effective systems so that they can comfortably delegate to others, be more profitable and have time to enjoy life even if they don’t have time to learn new technology or train their staff.  I have a knack for taking big ideas and converting them into smart, sound, and actionable ideas.

At the end of the day, I transform the way you run your business into a business you love to run.

Today’s comment came from a busy professional and an entrepreneur:

My company is in the middle of a very important project that is falling apart. How do I get things back on track?

Currently, my business in the middle of a very important project, our first ‘big game’ project that is simply not going well. I’m displeased with management of the project, execution by employees, and expectations by the client. Where do I even start?

This is a huge topic. Without know much about your specific project, work environment or staff’s skill set – it’s difficult to get specific.   There are some general issues that are common across industries and projects. The below suggestions are some rough steps to get you started. Please feel free to take advantage of a complimentary one-on-one consult – to receive a more individualized recommendation. More on how to schedule a one-on-one consult later in the article.

Know where you are

My recommendation is to start with an accurate status of where everything is. Get your team leaders to list the following:

1) Where they are in their current project tasks.
2) Current number of outstanding-known defects in the project
3) Current testing status and test coverage on the project
4) Current resource level (how many people working and are they fully devoted to project – i.e how many hours are they actually on this project)

Know where you are going (and when you are done)

Once you know where you currently are (precisely and accurately), decide where you are going and when you want to get there. List out your specific features and services that you intend to supply by a certain date.

Then outline your desired Success and Quality Level for the project. What kind of test and quality levels are you defining as your acceptance criteria — and release dates.  It’s not enough to understand the list of what you want to accomplish. You need to also understand the quality level that you intent to deliver. Clearly articulate your test coverage, test metrics and your pass/fail criteria.

ONLY when you have tested all your intended areas and those areas have “passed” and met your success criteria will your product or service be released.

Expect the Unexpected

You WILL hit speed bumps. Issues WILL arise. The unexpected WILL happen. We may not know exactly what will happen, but we do know something will happen. Therefore, schedule and prepare for the unexpected. If you have not done this at the start of the project, do this NOW. This is your Risk Assessment, Risk Analysis and Contingency plans. Review and evaluate your Risk Assessment frequently throughout the project.

Recovery Protocol Mapping

Once you understand where you currently are and where you actually want to be (at a certain time) – you can start creating your Recovery Protocol map. The best method is to be prepared and expect them.

For instance – what are you going to “let go” first when you run into trouble:
A) Are you going to add staff first?
B) Are you going to reduce the scope of the project first?
C) Are you going to add time to the release date or schedule?
D) Are you going to reduce the quality of the project?

Then repeat – with the understanding of what will be “let go” second and so forth. Adding the Recovery Protocol map to your Risk Assessment process at the start of your project is like having your Fire Escape plan.

If you need help getting these things in order, please contact me. I will be happy to help.


This is the very definition of project management. If you feel your project is falling apart, the first thing to improve is your project management skill set.   If you don’t have an expert project manager on staff – that should be your next hire, temp hire or consultant.

If you need additional help on this topic, please contact [email protected]

Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

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