How To Get A Derailed Project Back On Track

You come to in a cloud of dust and realize that your car has stalled. You squint and strain to look through the smoke in search of the road. You locate the road, but cannot see the start or finish line, just the skid marks leading from the pavement to where you are now, parked in the grass.


Have you ever experienced a project that's gone off the rails? It feels a lot like this, doesn't it?


Once you woke up to find yourself way off track, were you able to get back on the right path? Better yet, were you able to bounce back to cross the finish line with a victory?



Here is our six-step process to transform your stalled project into a victory:

1. Figure out what happened

The worst thing you could do is rush back out on the road without first asking yourself, "what the heck happened?". If you don't understand what made you spin off the road the first time, it's pretty likely to happen again.


Sure, you might have run out of funding, time, commitment, bandwidth, got lost in scope creep, or simply got stuck on a development problem, but why? What underlying issue did this final straw stem from?


Realize it, articulate it, and understand it.



2. Step Back

You're going to be pressured to quickly course correct and jump back in the race. Don't give in! Instead, take a big step back so that you can see the whole picture.

This is the perfect time to revisit and refresh your team's memory of your objective and the problem you originally set out to solve. (If you hadn't made a strategic plan before the start of your project, take the time to do it now!)


Knowing what you know now, ask yourself, "Is this still the best way to go about meeting our objective and solving this problem? Heck, is this problem still worth solving?"


Examine your roadmap and improve your race line with the learnings you got from your spin out and anything else along the way.


Internalize it and display it clearly for you and your team to see going forward.



3. Get A Fresh Perspective

You are probably VERY close to your project at this point and could benefit greatly from an outsider's fresh eyes.


Whether its new insight, a new perspective, or simply a second opinion, now is a great time to discuss your predicament with someone who has already successfully achieved what you are striving to do.


Viewing your situation through their expertise and perspective could shed light on an obstacle, opportunity, or strategy that you could not see on your own.



4. Slow down

Most of the time, our mistakes spiral out of not doing it right the first time. So, slow down and do it right this time.


Speed will only multiply your mistakes, so make sure you're getting it right before you crank up the pace.


Slow and right is better than fast and wrong.



5. Cut Back

Look for ways in which you are doing more than is necessary to meet your objective. With your roadmap in hand, determine if are you attempting to cross obstacles or complete legs of the track that don't actually get you closer to the finish line.


You can make massive strides forward by strategically removing distractions.



6. Stay Focused

Now that you've figured out what happened, took a step back to remind yourself of the big picture, gotten a fresh perspective, slowed down, and removed distractions, the next and last step is to stay focused on your singular mission at hand.


Trust that the strategy you've set will lead you to the finish line and hold tight to your race line.


Deflect temptations to veer onto what looks like a short cut or a more enjoyable route. Also, don't be sloppy and let your car meander. Stay focused!



The biggest threat to a project isn't driving off the road, it's not knowing how to get back on. Keep a grip on this guide to get back on track. If you haven't yet found yourself on the sidelines, follow this guide to ensure you avoid that fate.

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