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How to Manage Project Delays: 6 Effective Tips

How to manage project delay

As a project manager, one of the most difficult situations to handle can be the late delivery of a project. It will happen to most managers during their career but handling it well can keep the client on your side and lead to successful completion.

No matter how well you plan or run a project, sometimes you simply cannot avoid the fact that the project is going to run past the deadline. Although you can save yourself from an unpleasant situation of project delay by using project management software, you need strategies to manage it.

In most cases, however, late delivery is not the end of the world, it just depends on how you handle it. Handle it well and the customer will understand, and be sympathetic to the reasons behind the delay, get it wrong and you could have a few tough meetings ahead.

If you are struggling to find the formula for how to manage project delays, we are here to help you. In this blog, we will explore everything about project delays, most importantly, how you can handle them with ease. 

What Are Project Delays?

A project delay is defined as the unplanned or unforeseen project postponement due to some circumstance, event, or occurrence. It usually hinders the project’s progress and often leads to missed deadlines

In layman’s terms, project delay denotes the extra time a project requires beyond what was specified at the start of the project.  

Delays in projects can disturb your budget, cause your project to go off course, and worst of all result in missed deadlines. 

 Here are some of the reasons why project delays happen:

  • Project requirements are not clearly communicated
  • Change in project scope in the middle of the project
  • Lack of communication with stakeholders
  • Alterations in the project from the client’s side
  • Unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters or weather disruptions
  • Timeline errors, that is, timeline not planned adequately
  • Resources suddenly becoming unavailable

Impact of Delays in Projects 

Project delays can cause a slew of problems, some of which may not be visible at first.

Unexpected delays have a significant impact on project finances. Every time a delay occurs, resources are wasted, and the business incurs additional expenses. This jeopardizes the entire project if setbacks are not considered at the project’s planning stage.

Project delays can also negatively affect your company’s reputation with your stakeholders and clients.  Delay in one client project can cause late delivery of other projects by locking up resources needed elsewhere.

Delays can occur in projects of any field, from information technology to construction. By communicating project delays on time, managers can handle them effectively and ensure timely project completion.

Read More: Project Time Management: Process & Strategies to Improve Time Management

How To Avoid Project Delays?

The best way to deal with project delays is to prevent them in the first place. But is it even possible?

Well, the good news is Yes! To a large extent, it is possible.

So, how can you avoid an embarrassing delay in work? 

Here are a few simple tips and tricks to keep your project on track and minimize the impact of any delays that arise.

1. Establish Realistic Deadlines and Achievable Goals

Realistic deadlines and achievable goals are the two most important factors that can save you from project delays. They give your team the confidence to achieve the assigned tasks and also substantially increase the likelihood of meeting the project deadlines.  

On the contrary, if you are unrealistic, it can set wrong expectations.

For instance, if the deadline isn’t realistic, you may end up increasing stakeholders’ or clients’ expectations. That looks ambitious initially but if you aren’t able to fulfill those promises, it just puts you and your team in a bad light. The best strategy to handle project delays is by under-promising and over-delivering. This type of strategy is always effective.

Bonus Tips:

  • Try to set realistic, clear, and measurable goals.
  • Always set a deadline for any activity, no matter how big or small.
  • Never delegate more than one person to the same task. There should only be one person in charge of each task.

2. Understand the Project’s Requirements Precisely

The complexity of a project is determined by customers’ or stakeholders’ requirements. And this complexity determines the project’s duration and efforts involved. 

If you do not have a proper understanding of the project’s requirements, you will end up making inaccurate estimates about the budget, resources, timelines, etc.  If you go wrong with the forecast, it can lead to delays in projects.

So, how can you increase your understanding of the requirements and avoid project delays?

Do the following:

  • Begin requirements analysis as soon as possible
  • Spend as much time as necessary reviewing requirements. Your goal should be to express the requirements in your own words to your team. 
  • Document your analysis and final report and then have the customer sign it.

Read More: How to Manage Project Deliverables: 360 Degree Guide

3. Set Roles & Responsibilities

Hold a team meeting at the start of your project to communicate its vision to the team members. Ascertain that everyone is aware of their respective roles and responsibilities and the overall goal of the project before proceeding.

Usually, the project gets delayed because most of the time there is confusion around who is responsible for what. 

For example, there can be situations when a  team member refuses to make a critical decision because it does not fall within his/her scope of responsibility. Now, this can again lead to delays. 

What you need to do is define clear responsibilities for every member of the project to avoid such situations. When embarking on a project, every team member should be clear on what they are expected to do, what are their specific roles, who they have to report, etc.

Modern project management tools help you do so easily. They have features that allow you to assign specific roles to specific people in the team, promising maximum clarity. 

Set roles and responsibilities to avoid project delay

Bonus tips:

  • Outline what you expect from each team member in terms of responsibilities
  • Highlight the critical project milestones you’ve established in your project plan and explain the criteria for success.

4. Resource Management 

The next important step in overcoming project delays is the management of resources

Resource management refers to the overall process of planning, scheduling, and allocating all your resources in a way that maximizes efficiency. Resources may include finances, human resources, necessary equipment, etc.  

Identifying all the resources necessary for project completion is crucial to avoid project delays. In addition to identifying resources, your planning activities should identify exactly when each resource is required and in what quantity. Don’t ignore material resources such as printers, computers and other equipment needed during the project. 

Managing all these resources is important to prevent delays of any kind. 

5. Consider All of Your Alternatives

If there is a delay in the project, remember that you have options. Extending the deadline is not your only option. 

You can consider bringing in extra resources to handle the immediate requirements. You can also think of ways to increase the budget of the project if that can help solve the problem. Speaking with clients about the change in project scope and coming up with a middle road to avoid delays is another option you can consider.  

Before making any decision, be careful to solicit input from all parties. Discuss these alternatives with your staff, your seniors, and even your clients. Before you realize it, you may be able to avoid the situation of late delivery by doing what’s right for your project.

Read More: Project Resource Management 101: For Flawless Project Journeys

6. Monitor Progress & Make Improvements 

Setting strong goals is vital, but they mean little unless you collect data to track and assess how well your team is progressing towards those goals. 

You must have processes in place to monitor work completion, quality, and budgetary constraints. Keep an eye on your team’s progress frequently and check how speedily you are moving towards the deadline. 

You can adopt a project management tool for the same. There is various such software in the market that allow you to easily track the progress of your tasks and projects, check who is working on what, and make sure that everything is moving in the right direction. 

Monitor Progress and make Improvements

Bonus Tips:

  • Utilize an action tracking sheet to keep track of tasks
  • Take weekly follow-ups with the team via email, phone, or in-person to avoid unexpected delays. 

What to Do When a Project Gets Delayed?

The issue with projects is that they always seem to suffer unexpected delays despite the best planning and execution. 

As previously stated, delays are unavoidable. So, here’s what you can do to manage project delays:

  • Schedule an immediate team meeting to ascertain the reason for the delay. Avoid the blame game. Whatever is done is done. There is no point in determining who caused the delay or how it occurred. 
  • If the late delivery is due to financial constraints, take it up with your seniors or board members. The sooner board members or other appropriate authorities rectify it, the better.
  • Delegate duties when a critical deadline-driven process is struggling. While it is acceptable to work on dependent activities first, there is no harm in deprioritizing them for the larger good. 

Avoid Project Delays Using Project Management Software

As per one study, projects are 2.5 times more successful when PM practices are implemented.

Using online project management software can help you optimize your project management process and minimize costly delays.

It is an excellent tool for managing tasks from completion to execution. This software helps you assign tasks to the right people in your team, track progress, and fix bottlenecks in time to avoid project delays. The best part is you can do all this on a single dashboard, so no switching screens and context every now and then.

One such tool is ProProfs Project.

Proprofs project is a one-stop solution for all your project management needs, from planning to implementation. It is designed to assist teams in being productive and completing tasks on time. You can easily create, prioritize, and track activities using interactive views such as Gantt Charts, Kanban Boards, Calendar view, and List view. To successfully complete your projects on time, you can also share feedback, generate insightful reports, and take your next action from a single dashboard.

Take Your Project to the Finish Line on Time

Project delays are inevitable but with the right steps, you can take your project to the finish line. 

You can overcome project delays by setting deadlines, prioritizing tasks, and communicating progress to everyone in the team. Take one-on-one meetings regularly, clarify the roles and responsibilities of each member, and ensure that everyone is on the same page and moving together in the same direction. 

This can significantly improve your chances of finishing the project successfully on time. 

Moreover, you can adopt suitable project management software with reliable features to manage projects seamlessly. Such tools will help you find and fix bottlenecks in time, keep a constant eye on project progress and team performance, and eventually avoid delays. 

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About the author

David is a Project Management expert. He has been published in elearningindustry.com, simpleprogrammer.com. As a project planning and execution expert at ProProfs, he has offered a unique outlook on improving workflows and team efficiency. Connect with David for more engaging conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.