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How to Stop Improvement Projects From Stalling

Have you ever felt the frustration of watching an improvement project stall, fall over and the benefits never being realised?

I’ve seen quite a few projects over the years stalling.  Thankfully I have been able to help get them back on track, allowing my clients to get the results they wanted. Just recently I was involved in another similar project, one that was going off track. This got me thinking about the way I fix this particular problem. This month’s article covers the main steps I follow to get projects back on track.

Step One – Clarify the Objectives

Probably the biggest offender is the lack of clarity around the specifics of the project. Vague objectives lead to confusion. Reducing or confirming the scope of the project, and getting detailed on what you want to experience once the project is completed, can make a big difference. Put it in writing for reference.


Step Two – Clarify the Mechanics / Top Level Plan

How the project will unfold and what will need to happen in what sequence is vital. I’m talking about the phases of the project, or the large chunks of a project. I suppose this would be considered a more strategic review of the project, keeping it at a high level. For example, do you need the data cleansed first, or do you need the report written first? Those kinds of questions are the ones I am referring to. Milestones can then naturally follow on once you have a good feel for how the project needs to happen.

Step Three – Create Mini Projects

It is easy to get lost in big projects, so mini projects can be really useful for two main reasons. Firstly, as long as the mini project fits into the overall scheme of things (see Step Two) then you shouldn’t get lost, you will always have your point of reference. Secondly, most people find small projects less daunting and easier to get started on. They also find them easier to plan out and take ownership of.


Step Four – Check Your Resources and Schedule

Knowing how much time you have available leads on from our last email. Each mini project should be able to be scheduled so that you can comfortably fit your normal day to day working alongside your mini projects. If there are problems with fitting them together, you need to inform the top level plan (see Step Two again). However, and this is another plus point of mini projects, they often tend to be easier to shoe horn into your working week.



Step Five – Link to Daily Routines

To keep your finger on the pulse, you need to find a way of tying in the activity in the mini projects to your working day. If you have a start of day meeting then add in the next milestone as an agenda point. Short mini projects should have a completion date / milestone in the immediate future and this can really help to keep your focus. The overall project may take many more months from now to be completed and daily achievements will get you there.


So, there you are, my five points to getting stalling projects back on track. Use this list and add to it as you wish.

If you are getting fed up with your stalling projects then contact me and we can have an informal chat over the phone to bounce round some ideas about how you can get things moving again.


Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer