A lot goes into dragging a project across the finish line, and if you’re working for a small business or technology startup, odds are you’re already bootstrapped. Even with all the manpower and work hours in the world, sometimes projects just veer off course, and it can seem like a ton of different factors are vying for your failure. Something as small as a change in seasons can tank productivity. Don’t believe it? Research has shown that during the summer months, employees are 45% more likely to be distracted leading to a 20% drop in productivity.
It’s true: some hiccups can’t be avoided. You can’t will away sunshine and trap your employees in an eternal February so they never get spring fever. Businesses are often at the mercy of budget and technological constraints. Sometimes, a notoriously scrupulous client keeps changing the scope of their work, and your hands are tied.
While you can’t solve every issue that throws a wrench in your projects, you can learn how to mitigate problems before they arise with careful planning and attention to detail. These tips can help you stay on track.
Create a Scope Management Plan
Scope creep is one of the main killers of project timelines. In the simplest terms, it’s a project’s tendency to become larger as time goes on. The more deliverables you complete, the more that arise until, eventually, the entire parameters of your project have changed, your deadline is fast approaching, your budget is dwindling to its last cents, and there’s still no end in sight.
In order to avoid this, it’s a good idea to create a scope management plan, which is also sometimes called a statement of work, before you get started. In this, you’ll clearly define:
- Your project’s goals and requirements
- The boundaries of your product
- Who’s responsible for which tasks
- The process in which those tasks will be done
- The process of final approvals
- The process of documenting and controlling changes in your project
Most projects see minor changes within their lifespan, but there should be a clear way to deal with those changes so that the scope doesn’t become unmanageable. It’s important to keep a keen eye on your organization’s infrastructure and culture. If everyone’s bootstrapped and working on numerous projects that have suffered from scope creep, it’s going to be more difficult to enact changes vs. a company that’s been pumped with financial resources and is looking to scale up after a fresh round of funding. The good news is, the clearer and more detailed your plan is, the more easily you’ll be able to figure out what kind of manpower you need to help you take it across the finish line. (At Ureed.com, we offer tailored business & scope management plans for small, medium and large Enterprises to help them source and hire the talents they need from our online freelance platform to achieve their goals.)
Schedule Out And Track Tasks Using a Project Management System
Poor communication causes large companies to $62 million per year. Even small businesses suffer an average loss of $420,000. This is why it’s important to schedule out tasks in a way that’s clear and direct. Enter: project management software. Project management software doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Some companies find success using shared Google Docs and Google Sheets. Other companies turn towards shared to-do lists like Trello or more heavy-duty project management software like Asana. Another alternative would be using an Enterprise-grade system like Ureed.com, which gives you full visibility into your project’s progress, which we handle from start to finish with the help of vetted, expert freelance talents.
Either way, it’s important that there are clearly visible deadlines in every stage of the workflow. Every person involved should be able to fully understand what’s expected from them. Setting automated reminders helps prevent missed deadlines, especially when employees are busy juggling multiple projects at one time.
Set Reasonable Timelines
Sometimes the reason a project is off track is because the project managers have set their employees up to fail with unrealistic timelines. It’s a trap we all fall into — especially those of us who are enthusiastic and optimistic about our goals. It’s important to remember that working hard is not synonymous with biting off more than you can chew. Set realistic deadlines.
To get the most accurate (and least stress-inducing) deadline, break your project down into chunks. Each piece should have its own deadline, so if you’re falling behind, you can mitigate the problem well before the project is expected to be due. Also factor in what else your team has going on. Maybe you could normally turn around a project in two weeks, but it’s during your company’s busy season and your team has conflicting deadlines. You may need to temper your expectations.
Finally, take a look at the reason projects have been delayed in the past. You don’t want to repeat the same mistakes and there may be a crucial place you’re getting tripped up time and time again. If that’s the case, you may not be able to avoid it, so work those hiccups into your timeline even if you’re hoping for the best.
Foster a Culture Of Support
Employees and independent workers aren’t machines, and unfortunately, humans have a lot of constraints when it comes to productivity. Never underestimate how stress can get in the way of completing your project. It’s actually a huge factor. A Harvard Study found that companies lose nearly $65 billion annually because their employees are sleep deprived. Another study found that each day, one million employees miss work because of stress. So, how do you mitigate this?
Open the lines of communication. Consult your employees on their deadlines since they’re the ones who know what they can handle. It’s important to have a backup plan if one employee needs extra support. Hiring freelancers through online platforms to support them, for example, is one way to go. Beyond that, you may want to consider a flexible work policy that reduces stress, fights burnout, and increases work-life balance. According to a Stanford study, employees who are able to work from home are 13% more productive.
Staying On Track Moving Forward
The success of most projects hinges on clear lines of communication, hard boundaries, and continued support. Above all, it’s important to craft a company culture that does not reward people for grinding themselves into the ground. This will lead to productivity-killing burnout and create a culture where employees are hesitant to ask for help.
Prioritize employee health and happiness. Research has shown that replacing 2.5 hours a week with exercise can increase time management skills by 72%. Another study found that proper nutrition increases job performance by 25%. Rather than working harder, longer, and faster to keep a project on track, work smarter. Proper planning is the key.
Need help managing your project? With Ureed.com, you can hire the freelancers you need to get your project on track, or even let us take the reigns and handle your project from beginning to end, from sourcing talents to ensuring all deliverables exceed your expectations.