What are the causes of project delays?

You just put out fire from one delayed project, and rushing to another, worrying that it might turn from a delay to a failure if you’re not fast enough. And we all know too well the cost of a project failure: angry customers, broken deals, bad names in the field…

Putting out fires does seem important, but it’s more important to find and fight the source of the fire, i.e. identify where things went wrong, and know how to prevent project delays from happening again when the fires are out.

What are the causes of project delays and what to do about them?

Here are some of the most commonly seen causes for project delays. Scan and see what you can do to better prevent project delays from happening again.

1. Unrealistic project schedule

A realistic project schedule:

a. Is missions-oriented;
b. Is flexible to potential risks and changes;
c. Is fact-based;
d. Has a realistic and well-defined deadline;
e. Takes into consideration the work and resources needed in the project.

Most of the time, we wrongly think of the future selves as more capable, more diligent, more hard-working than our present selves. Then comes the unrealistic plan and schedule.

Make your decision based on the fact and data you have, set out the right goals, i.e. the goals that you and your team can actually achieve, make sure you the plan can be swiftly changed if the unexpected happen, and you’re well off to a realistic schedule.

2. Poor or no risk analysis and mitigation plan

You should never miss risk analysis whenever you’re making plans. Risk analysis helps you identify the potential risks: material shortage, quality failure, testing problem, case flow problem and more, and what possible actions you can take to mitigate the effects. It’s like the backup plans your backup plans.
If such a plan is missing, it’s natural that you’re constantly putting out fire from one place to another.

3. Poor or no onsite production and control schedule

Without an onsite project management team in place is almost equal to having no eyes and ears in the frontline: you won’t be able to know what’s actually going on, and you can’t take timely actions against any possible dangers.

Here, we should clarify that an onsite project management team doesn’t mean that you don’t trust your suppliers. It’s a mechanism that better helps you and your suppliers solve your common problems. It’s a win-win solution.

4. Poor team cooperation

Poor team cooperation could entail poorly allocated responsibilities, ineffective communication, uncooperative team members, and unqualified personnel. This is by far the most complicated problem, because it involves too many parties.

To make sure that your team won’t be plagued by such an issue, it’s imperative for you to know your team members: you need to identify their strength and weaknesses, and assign job tasks accordingly. Also make sure that you and your team have effective and efficient communication down the road, which constitutes one of the most important part of any project schedule management.

5. Other causes

Apart from what mentioned above, causes such as unexpected weather changes, too complex tasks, and the project team has too many tasks at the same time could also be the downfall of a delayed project.

Last but not least, putting out fires is important, but track down to the source of the fire and make sure similar things won’t happen again is equally, or even more, important.

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