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How to Know if Your Project Goals Are Realistic

Jordan Melson

Jordan Melson

This is a guest post by Jordan Melson from Technology Advice.

We all have a pretty good mental picture of what the workplace looks like when an important project flies right off the tracks. Phones ringing, notes tacked everywhere, people darting to and from cubicles and offices… The image isn’t a pretty one, and probably causes some amount of stress just imagining it.

Maybe your company is going through something similar right now. Has your business experienced tremendous growth over the past twelve months? If so, you may be struggling to keep up with your project goals, which then leads to sheer chaos on a daily basis. If this is the case, one of two things could be happening.

First, maybe you’re simply not organized enough to handle the increase in responsibility. That doesn’t mean you can’t be organized; it simply means you’ve got some work to do in that arena.

The other possibility might be harder to fix. There is a good chance you have bitten off more than you can chew at the moment. Studies show only 2.5 percent of companies complete 100 percent of their projects in a given year, so you can be sure you’re not alone. Going back on your word isn’t easy, fun, or smiled upon. However, if this is the problem, and is creating chaos in your office, you will need a solution, and quick.

Transparency vs. Organization

Take a look at your current process. Do you know where each project is? Can you quickly and succinctly name the particular stage, who is handling the tasks, and where the project will be tomorrow?

Transparency is crucial in project management. Not only should the project manager have an idea of which stage each project is on and who is responsible for the work, but also any managers involved in the project should be aware.  Secret passwords, hidden files, and “he said/she said” won’t cut it. Buckle down, read some project management software reviews, and choose a solution that makes the process smoother. Then watch your workdays get back on track.

If you can put your finger on the above information but still feel you’re falling behind, you may have planned goals that are simply unreachable.

A Methodical Approach

Discovering that you’ve taken on more than your company can handle is a sobering event. How can you possibly disappoint clients by extending deliverable dates? Who will understand when you miss your deadlines? Unfortunately, there are times when you have to scale back or your whole company will be thrown into chaos. Once you’re behind on one project, the rest will follow.

Assuming you have a project management program in place, dive into your software to see how easy rearranging assignments might be. If the tweak of a date or two for one team solves the problem across the board, congratulate yourself and work hard to avoid the problem in the future.

If, however, you see that meeting deadlines is impossible for all involved, you may need to rethink your strategy. Can your teams be split into smaller groups? Perhaps two people can finish the tasks as easily as four could. If so, create another team, separate the projects, and then rework the deadlines to get all tasks done at the same time. While employees may not have the support of additional team members on their side, they do still have the same amount of time available for task completion.

If you don’t have the manpower to create new teams, something must give. Change is never easy, but you can succeed. Prioritize your projects and leave the least important for last. This may be the assignments from clients who don’t provide feedback in a timely manner anyway, clients who are consistently late with necessary information for your projects, or assignments that have a low return on investment.

Communication Is Key

The only way to cut back on projects without torpedoing the end result is through great communication. If one person doesn’t get the memo about stopping, you’ll end up with mixed results for the projects still in play.

Project management software is a great way to keep everyone in the loop, since assignments and dependencies can be changed within the program at a moment’s notice. When team members arrive for work and see a new list of tasks, they have the information they need to continue with their day.

To reinforce your PM software, consider sending out messages for all involved or, better yet, gather them together so healthy discussion can take place. Your employees might have some great ideas to help keep everything on track without the need for a massive halt in progress.

Essentially, transparency, organization, communication, and a methodical approach are all needed to keep your projects on task. If you realize you’ve overreached, don’t panic. Apply the same principles to your restructuring plan, and you’ll get through unscathed.

About the author: Jordan Melson is Community Manager at Technology Advice. She’s a graduate of the University of Tennessee Knoxville with a degree in Communications and minors in Journalism & Electronic Media as well as Information Sciences.

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.

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