8 Steps to Get Your Project Back on Track

Posted: 31/07/2018

If you’ve ever managed a project, you know that setbacks and challenges are inevitable. Tasks can get missed, timelines can be stretched, priorities change and business-as-usual activities can take priority over the project. The good news is that you can get your project and project team back on track with the eight steps outlined below.

Key Takeaways:

  • Take the project in incremental steps rather than try to move forward all at once, and don’t continue moving in a direction that’s not working. Instead, reassess.
  • Review the situation, identify project roadblocks and create a plan to address them.
  • Revisit the planning phase to make sure you’ve established project goals that are clear and achievable.
  • Review your project milestones and develop target dates for completion.
  • Monitor progress frequently during each of the project phases.
  • Recruit a high-performance team that shows dedication and drive.
  • Utilise project management tools and techniques to track progress, pinpoint risks and ensure the project runs smoothly.

Project Management Steps to Get You to Completion

Projects can quickly get derailed, leaving those heading the project feeling overwhelmed and out of control. But you don’t have to give up hope on your goals; with a few simple steps, most projects can be brought back on track and seen through to completion.

Step 1: Review the situation

Ensure you have a realistic assessment of the current situation and the phases of project management still ahead of you.

  • Do you have the appropriate setup to account for the current situation?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What are the requirements that need to be met?
  • What are the key timelines?
  • Where is the current progress of each essential activity?
  • What is the status of each milestone?
  • Is each person clear on their roles and responsibilities?

Be clear on what, if anything, has changed. You may need a full project reset if it’s significant enough.


a person working on project management steps


Step 2: Reconsider the project scope and root out issues

During the project planning phase, you likely considered the project scope and the project’s limits and possibilities. This step in the project planning phase ensures you know the full extent of the project and what problems you may face with project management.

Revisit this part of the project life cycle and clearly determine the issues you face as a project manager.

  • Are reporting lines clear? Where are the current statuses up to?
  • If you’ve got traffic light reporting, which are showing red & amber? Do you clearly understand why? For those that are green, are you confident this is an accurate representation of the situation?
  • To what extent are external problems affecting your timing and progress of the project? What about internal? Do you have any control over these?
  • Where are the bottlenecks and issues?
  • Do you fully understand why the problems are occurring?
  • Are set meeting rhythms occurring?
  • Has reporting been consistent, or has it stalled?

It is a good idea to check with your stakeholders to hear about their challenges and then use this information to determine any significant problems.

All projects have challenges, and finding the root cause is often difficult. However, ascertaining the root cause of your issues is necessary so that the project management process can move forward.

Step 3: Reevaluate the project planning phase, reshaping your action plan as needed

Now that you have a good view of what you are currently facing, you can start designing your plan of action to get the project back on course.

  • Is your action plan missing steps? If so, adjust the steps and flow of the action plan as needed.
  • Build out the key actions that need to happen, including responsibilities, due dates and statuses. Download our action plan template here.
  • Have you spent enough time planning and designing the new way forward? Consider external factors you have no control over – you have to work with these.
  • Are you updating relevant stakeholders regularly? Develop a communication plan if you haven’t already got one.
  • Set up a regular meeting rhythm for action plan progress.

Step 4: Bring in a high-performance team

The right team will be essential to ensuring your project runs smoothly from here on out. Decide who you will need to finish the steps in your action plan and who will be able to succeed.

  • Do you have a skilled team available to focus on this project?
  • Do your resources have enough time to dedicate to the project on top of their business-as-usual activities? Can you realign their work and priorities to set them up for success if they don’t?
  • Do you have the right people with the right skills in the right activities? Consider a simple skills audit if people don’t seem to progress with their actions – stop and question the barrier.
  • Are people clear on their roles and responsibilities?
  • Do you have the right and available resources, or will outsourcing this work be more efficient in terms of time and/or cost?

TIP: Ask them to explain what their core role is. What they’re responsible for – let them speak and listen carefully. Does what they’re saying align with what you would say? If not, where are the gaps? This will show you where clarification is required. Remember – people’s perception is their reality – so it’s up to you to find out what that is and help to clarify it if required.

Step 5: Don’t falter when it comes to project execution

Once you have asked all the questions to get your team and plan in place and project planning is back on track, you must guarantee that project execution is effective and efficient.

The project execution phase is one of the most critical phases of project management because it’s when your team finally gets to work and begins delivering.

  • Create tasks for team members that reflect the steps of the new action plan.
  • Assign tasks related to the project plan to appropriate team members based on their strengths and expertise and implement workflows.
  • Brief the team on the project plan and assigned tasks.
  • Give the green light to project team members to start working on project tasks.
  • Develop and begin completing project deliverables.

Step 6: Monitor project progress

The project monitoring phase is a critical piece of the project management puzzle. After revisiting project initiation and execution, it’s time to closely manage your team’s progress in meeting the project’s goals. This ensures each project phase stays on schedule this time around.

  • Use project tracking software to monitor overall project progress and manage and update project tasks.
  • Regularly check the milestones for each project phase and monitor timelines.
  • Have project team meetings or check-ins to ensure everyone is on the same page. Are the project team getting tasks completed on time and up to standing?
  • Have project members delegate tasks, manage deadlines and coordinate project resources.
  • Ensure project quality control standards are met, and project tasks have been completed correctly through all phases of the project life cycle.
  • Observe project performance throughout the project life cycle and take corrective action if something is not going according to plan.

Step 7: Celebrate project successes

Team motivation is important if you want to ensure a project remains on course. Be sure to celebrate when the team reaches milestones and goals so that the group stays motivated throughout the entire project.

  • Acknowledge project successes, big and small, with your entire team to thank them for their hard work and dedication.
  • Approach project management with an attitude of teamwork and understand that a good project manager relies on the cooperation and abilities of project teams to do their best work.
  • Is project performance outstanding? Reward project team members for exceptional achievements and show your appreciation for their efforts as their project manager.

Step 8: See it through to the end with a thorough project closure phase

Once all project tasks have been accomplished, you can close out the project.

This is one of the phases of project management that often gets overlooked in significance because the project feels finished. However, work must be accomplished even after the last deliverable is complete.

  • Create project closure documents, such as project reports, a final project budget and project reviews.
  • Ensure project stakeholders are informed and provide project feedback.
  • Evaluate the project planning process and the project management steps you took to see where you encountered pitfalls or obstacles.
  • Update project documentation to establish project lessons learned for the sake of future projects.

By thoroughly closing out a project, you can add to your knowledge of the project management process and approach future projects with more strategies for success.

That way, even when a project goes off the rails, you will have the tools in your project management toolbox to get it back on track.

Frequently Asked Questions About Project Management

Project recovery can be a challenging process. Let’s review some of the most commonly asked questions about project management and recovery.


What Is the Project Management Life Cycle?

The project management life cycle is a sequence of management steps that project managers can follow to ensure a project successfully reaches completion.

The project life cycle typically consists of phases such as project initiation, project planning, project execution, project monitoring and project closure. However, Project management is never a one-size-fits-all process, and as a project manager, there is more to successful project management than just the project life cycle.

A project may have goals and unique processes that exist outside the project management life cycle. Therefore, your project may require its own process and framework. In that case, the project manager’s job is to create a custom project management process for the company’s specific undertaking.

What Project Management Tools Can Project Managers Use to Help Them Get Back on Track?

Project managers should reach out for help when project tasks are not being completed on time or when the project appears to be heading in the wrong direction. When a project manager finds themselves in this situation, they should contact project stakeholders and meet with their team to coordinate a recovery.

They may also need to consult outside resources, such as DVE Solutions, to identify project issues and find and implement solutions.

When Should a Project Manager Reach Out for Help?

Project managers should reach out for help when project tasks are not being completed on time or when the project appears to be heading in the wrong direction. When a project manager finds themselves in this situation, they should contact project stakeholders and meet with their team to coordinate a recovery.

They may also need to consult outside resources, such as DVE Solutions, to identify project issues and find and implement solutions.

You Can Be A Successful Project Manager

Need more help to get your project back on track? Call us today on 1800 870 677 or email info@dvesolutions.com.au. You may also like to download our Implementation Plan template, which can help you track project actions and activities quickly and easily.