How to Minimise Delays in a Project

A list of flights at an airport showing many with delays

Delays in a project can be the kiss of death if they go unchecked; while some minor delays are to be expected to a degree, it’s when they start building up or become huge delays that problems arise. But this can be avoided with proper planning and risk management strategies in place, and when delays can be avoided or decreased it will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the progress of a project and drastically improve the chances of success.

  • Make sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities
    One of the most common, and easy to avoid, reasons for project delays is when individual team members don’t know exactly what they are responsible for, and things are not done because ‘I thought X was taking care of that’. If everyone assumes that everyone else is sorting something out then it will never get done, so before a project starts and as it progresses, it is absolutely vital for the relevant team members to be explicitly informed of what their roles and responsibilities are. That way when a task arises there should be someone responsible for its completion, helping to ensure everything is done as needed.

  • Plan for contingencies in resourcing
    If you have a team member who deals with a specific issue or area of a project, and they are pulled away due to sickness or other reasons then this may cause significant delays if no one else knows what they were doing or what stage their work is at. To plan for this it is important to hold regular team meetings to share knowledge of what is happening in the project. Although responsibilities will still be divided amongst the team, if everyone has a rough idea of what the rest of the team is working on, it will help minimise delays should an individual be unable to attend work for any reason, as other team members will be able to pick up the slack while they are away.
  • Document everything
    In addition to making sure everyone knows their roles and ensuring contingency plans for the event staff need to take time away from a project, one of the best ways to avoid delays is to document everything. Trying to uncover information needed to move a project forward is one of the easiest ways to lose time. It may be details of work to be done that was only agreed verbally, or it may be a process that only one person knows about; whatever it is, if it isn’t documented, and then it is one day needed, delays will inevitably ensue. Have a dedicated project folder where absolutely everything is documented, and everyone involved in the project knows where to go to find information. This includes saving relevant e-mails, documenting discussions, and capturing processes. By having it all in one place where everyone can get to it, should information be needed to clarify something down the line, then time doesn’t need to be wasted searching endlessly for it.
  • Watch out for scope creep
    This can be one of the most insidious causes of delays in a project and requires a high degree of diligence to combat. The gradual addition of new elements in a project means that resources have to be shifted and time has to be allocated to attend to these new requirements. Typically these resources and time allocation are already scheduled to tight deadlines, and any amendments will automatically contribute to delays, and the worse the scope creep the worse the delays will be. So be wary of when this happens, be clear on the parameters of the project and what can and cannot feasibly be added on at a later stage, and do your best to stick to it.

While delays are par for the course in most projects, that’s not to say that steps shouldn’t be taken to make sure they are minimal; the negative impact delays can have on team morale, resourcing, and outcomes for the project can be huge, so working to reduce their occurrence is vital for the benefit of everyone involved. The above are only some of the many strategies that can used to prevent delays, and depending on the size, scope and complexity of a project there may be many more. The important thing is to be proactive and take steps to reduce the risk where you can, and also factor in delays in the initial plan to ensure that should something happen, it doesn’t derail the project completely.