We continue with our examination of the corrective action alternatives that are available to a project manager when progress begins to lag behind expectations as shown in the diagram below. In the previous article we looked at the implications of extending the duration on the first task, leading either to a delay in the project finish or at least a reduction in the amount of contingency available.
Overlap some tasks.This is a popular method since it saves time but may not add to the cost. However, we might ask after the reason for the presence of the planned predecessor for task 2 in the first place - given that we now seem willing to dispense with it. What was its importance and what is implied by its omission? These questions need to be considered before we simply overlap tasks. The other disadvantage is that if the same resources are required on the now overlapping tasks, a conflict is caused and this would have to be resolved.
Modify the methodThis simply suggests that we tackle the task differently, even though it has already started. This might involve the use of better processes, more appropriate technology, higher skilled people or a total re-think of the overall approach. Of course it would have been better to identify these improvements earlier but we will exploit good ideas whenever they strike us. The method is too general to lay out specific consequences but they could include delays while we procure equipment or train staff, cost-overruns incurred in that procurement or training, the need to gain approvals for the new approach - among many other possibilities.
Add Resources (Crashing)To crash a project means to add resources to one or more critical tasks in an effort to shorten their durations leading to a contraction of the entire project. The primary consequence here is of course a cost increase. This is due to a variety of factors. The time reduction is rarely inversely proportional to the resource increase (the law of diminishing returns) leading to inefficiencies and hence cost increases. Also, as teams grow there need to be additional supervision, catering, transport and other services that incur new costs. The source of these additional resources may also become an issue. Are they available? Do we draw them off other projects that will then suffer from their absence? On the other hand, if we plan to make use of the same people in the form of overtime, do we risk their fatigue leading to potential safety or quality problems?
The question may then arise as to which task to crash. Planning to wait until the last task might be risky, while crashing the first one might not achieve acceptable results as it is already partially complete. We might rather select task 2 and use the interval before it starts to identify and prepare the additional team members so that they will be performing to maximum productivity on that task. This case is shown in the diagram below. We therefore plan to allow it to start late but finish on time, thereby preserving the original project end date.
De-ScopingThis usually means doing less, delivering a smaller slice of the deliverable (and consequently associated project benefits) than originally promised. This of course should not be done without negotiation which again has consequences in terms of quality, client expectations, credibility and professional reputation.
Motivate the TeamIf we look after our team members in the good times they might just look after us in the bad ones! Appealing to their sense of loyalty and commitment to the project and the organisation might yield additional effort in well-led teams. Of course there is a penalty. We are consuming goodwill which will need to be replenished by acknowledgement, reward, time-off or other means.