Some familiar phrases that may help if the going gets tough on a project.

Are you getting ready to start a project that will bring significant improvements to your current operation? If so, lots of luck! But, remember to keep your eye on the ball: that is, firmly focused on the ultimate goal: to support the company business, without interruption.

Every once in a while, as a project nears completion, the going gets tough. Of course, we always start with a solid, workable plan that is a necessary prerequisite to successful implementation. But, as the old adage says, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.

Some of those slips are a result of changes in the business environment that catch our project halfway through. For example, a higher priority project may need to borrow some of our budget — rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak. Or, an acquisition or consolidation may change the throughput requirements dramatically.

These changes are likely to require what I would call mid-stream re-engineering. When the project was conceived, alternatives were developed, refined and compared. One was selected, perhaps by the slimmest of margins. A new situation may make it appropriate to re-visit elements of some of those original alternatives. This is no time to cling to our old favorites. There is always more than one way to skin a cat. Have an open mind to those options that will keep the business on course, but DON’T get so radical as to stop and start over. It’s not a good idea to change horses in the middle of the stream.

Be prepared to compromise. This might take fresh eyes from someone outside the project to keep the discussion objective.

Schedule and budget are important, but not at the expense of a functional solution. No one likes overruns. And that is why we spend so much effort to get it right at the beginning and why we try to maintain a contingency that is proportional to the expected risks.

However, it is sometimes better to suck it up, beg forgiveness, eat crow and ask for a little more money than to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Budget changes may make it necessary to postpone a portion of the project. If so, how DO we choose what to keep, and what to defer? Eat the elephant one bite at a time. We might consider choosing the project segment that:

  • Meets the most critical need
  • Has the highest cost/benefit ratio, or
  • Has the easiest steps to implement.

The logical, or perhaps only, possible implementation sequence may dictate which piece has to come first.

Track project progress closely, and honestly, to catch problems early, when they are likely to still be small and there is ample time to recover. There’s another old saying that can help keep us on track. A stitch in time saves nine. Putting them on the back burner and hoping that we can make up for it later is probably unrealistic.

A favorite expression of a former partner: The first 90% of the project takes 90% of the time. The last 10% takes the other 90. Anticipate this and pre-plan resources appropriately for the testing, training and start-up steps. Adding resources to a late project only makes it later.

As of September 8, 2020, Crimson & Co (formerly The Progress Group/TPG) has rebranded as Argon & Co following the successful merger with Argon Consulting in April 2018. 

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