Disruptions are unavoidable when working on development projects with a large scope. Whether due to misunderstandings in specifications, unexpected snags, illness, attrition, or unforeseen scenarios, the result is the same: the risk of overrun budgets and deadlines.
Identify and mitigate risks up-front
At its best, disruption can be an inconvenience. At its worst, it’s a showstopper. Even at the lower end of the spectrum, disruption is a high-level business risk. Ask the big questions up-front to determine project risks and business objectives. Although there is no way to adequately plan for every possible interruption, understanding the big picture will help you be flexible if and when a disruption occurs. What do you do when faced with a disruption? Contain, contain, contain.
Minimize fallout and avoid the slippery slope
It’s counterproductive to cloak your expectations in false optimism after a disruption. Doing so can lead to raised stakes and increased risks, which then directs to a trail of missed benchmarks, ultimately giving way to increased scrutiny and loss of team morale. Containing a disruption is all about minimizing fallout, not necessarily eliminating it. To decide how to absorb the probable hit, you need composure and quick analysis.
6 tips for containment:
- Face reality early: Don’t dismiss or ignore issues. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but the first step to containment, and to delivery of the best possible product down the road, is acknowledging the disruption. Delaying a discussion will only lead to further risk of damage to the project.
- Do no harm: The knee-jerk response might be to rearrange resources, but this can put projects of equal or greater importance at risk. If you must borrow resources from other projects, take special care not to gouge till they bleed.
- Re-evaluate scope: See if there are options for reducing scope. It's in line with an agile approach, and the client may be more amenable to this option than you anticipate.
- Re-structure deliverables: Some milestones may have been arbitrarily chosen and can be re-ordered or adjusted.
- Discount: If the disruption lands squarely on the consultant side, then the consultant should absorb the associated costs.
- Carefully consider additional resources: Supplementary resources can help increase throughout and fill gaps in expertise. But, before you make a decision, consider ramp-up time, coordination, and risks associated with new team members veering off course. As experienced managers know, adding resources has a cost in terms of efficiency and at a certain point can negatively affect delivery timing and quality.
Disruption may be unavoidable, but it does not have to be catastrophic. When disruption occurs, clear communication and decisive problem-solving leads to a better end product. Preparing up-front and following these six steps can go a long way in working through a disruption with minimal battle scars.