“Is the Light at the End of the Tunnel a Train?”

By Lakecia Carter, PMP

Today is your lucky day! The project is months behind schedule and over budget. Everyone on the team is frustrated. You’ve been called in to “manage” the project that’s already headed for failure. Some would see this as an opportunity to show their “Super PM” skills. Others would be scared to death. I have found myself somewhere in between. While I’m always ready for a challenge, there are times when I wondered “why did I get brought in so late in the game?” Or “What do they expect me to do – work a miracle?!” So, what do you do? How do you get the project “on track”? These tips may not save the project, but it will help save your sanity!

Take ownership. It may sound unfair, but you have to own the solution, not the problem. It’s YOUR project now, bruises and all. Why you? Better question is “Why not you?” You’re equipped to handle the challenge!

Understand the team dynamics.  I believe that 90% of project challenges lie with the team players and stakeholders. There’s never a shortage of talent, skill or hearts with good intentions. As the PM, try to assess the state of the team. This step will quickly point you in the right direction.

Find out the pain points and provide pain-free solutions. Generally, there are three places to find pain points: People, Processes and Tools.  Sometimes it takes simple changes to make a big difference. It may be a team level-set, a simple process flow or a checklist.  You can be a “Super PM” here because you know how to make the People, Process and Tools work together to get results. Just keep it simple!

It’s important to remember if you get a project that seems doomed from the beginning, you can still make a difference. You may or may not rescue the project. You CAN take ownership, get the team on track and remove the pain associated with the project. The light at the end of the tunnel should mean that things will get better after a while. However, if it feels like the light is a train, you don’t have to get run over!

Please share some tips that may help us all when our projects seem to be headed off the track!


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