What To Do If Your Project Is Late

If your project is not complete by the date that you have set, you should stop working on the project and abandon it.

When you ditch the project, you must make sure that you make the best use of everything that you have invested. Make sure you read through the end of this post to understand.

There are a few reasons why a project might not be delivered late:

  1. You might have had scope changes that have increased the timeline.
  2. You may have run into unexpected problems that were harder than expected to solve.
  3. Your estimation of work may have been off.
  4. Other priorities may have gotten in the way.

When you have a project, the first thing that you must do is set a completion date. If you reach the completion date (and time) and the project is not done, then you need to stop working on the project immediately. This project has failed. It has not achieved its quality (completeness), scope, expenses (budget), within the time that you have set for doing the work. The change you intended will not happen when you said it would.

The next thing you need to do is ask yourself the question: “Do I still need the results that were promised by the lost project?”

This question will help you focus in two ways:

  1. It will help you stop and think about whether this is the best place to put your time and effort. It will give you a chance to consider the sunk costs (which have a $0 value) and whether finishing the project would have any value if it is completed.
  2. The question also helps you re-focus on the results that are intended by the project. Sometimes the purpose of a project becomes fuzzy over time. A question of whether the results are still required will help you concentrate on the essential part of the change you are trying to bring.

If you determine that you still need the results of the project that you are late for (and have just ended), then open a new project. Start from the beginning and lay out a plan for the project to be completed. Set a new completion date, lay out the work and requirements.

Starting a new project will focus you on the work that needs to be done. It will signal that you are willing to abandon plans if they aren’t of any value. It will also communicate that your word is important. If you say that a project will be done on a specific date, it must be done. Or you will start again.

If you start a new project, you will, of course, have the benefit of the assets from the project that was just abandoned. If you do it right, you could even shield your customer or client from the internal process of abandoning and initiating a new project. Even if your clients don’t see it, it is important that your project plans matter enough to you that you are willing to abandon your project if you don’t meet your criteria.

If your project is late, abandon it. Start with something that is most important to you. It might be getting the same results that you intended with the previous project. Don’t work on failed projects. Work on projects that will make a change. Make a difference.