A project manager is sitting at his laptop with his hands on his head in frustration at the project setback.Tracking your project’s performance against the project plan is vital to ensure that you are meeting the original objectives. However, sooner or later your project may hit a sticky patch in which you have fallen way behind from your project plan.

So what can you do to bring it back on track once you see a problem? Clearly there isn’t a simple answer which solves all of your issues but it is something which can be done if you put your mind to it. Here are some of the best ideas for trying to start the recovery process as painlessly as possible.

1. Ask for More Resources

It would be great if you could get more money or more team members to sort things out, wouldn’t it? This is a simple-sounding solution so it is worth considering first of all. Of course, throwing more resources at a problem isn’t always the ideal solution. Perhaps another approach could be to re-assign your existing resources and use them in a more intelligent way. Either way, you will find that increasing the effectiveness of your resources is a more realistic way of getting the recovery on track in a lot of cases. If you can get the team working smarter and harder then you might not even need to bring in the extra bodies you thought were necessary. Increasing the motivation levels and buy-in of your staff could give you surprisingly good results if you can’t bring in anyone else.

2. Work More Hours

Working more hours is another possibility, although it isn’t always as simple as it sounds. We all lose effectiveness when we work for too long, so you could find that you don’t see the results you expected from working much longer hours. This isn’t a good long term approach either, as you don’t want to work long hours for an indefinite period. It therefore works best a short, sharp boost to the project over the period of a couple of weeks. I have always found that when people are asked for more hours on a project they are generally quite willing as long as they can see why it is necessary and how it can help the work advance. I would say that the project manager would also need to lead by example in this case and do more extra hours than anyone else if they can. You will need to keep a tight control on your budget here, as paying for extra hours can be awfully expensive after a short time.

3. Re-define Your Priorities

Another idea is to move around the pieces of work you have underway. This could mean that something which was seen as being most urgent now moves down a notch or two while something else moves up to replace it. This might seem like a drastic thing to do but it could be worthwhile in some cases. For instance, you might be able to free up a bottleneck on your resources by doing it.

4. Be Creative

Is there another approach you could take which could help you get back on track? Quite possibly there is but it may be tricky to find it. Holding a team brainstorming session to come up with some ideas is a great idea here. You will need to be pretty creative on some projects but there is very often a way of making up for lost time which you can find if you spend enough time looking for it. Of course, you don’t want to spend so much time looking for it that your plan falls further behind, so a short, sharp brainstorming session which is well organized and effective is what you need.

5. Go Back to Basics

When did the project start falling off course? If it was awhile ago then it might be time to go back to basics to try and recover it. Maybe your original plan was flawed or the project itself has an inherent problem in it. It can be a tough decision to tear up a lot of work which has been done and look at the whole thing with a fresh vision but it can also be a big relief in a struggling project. You could think about looking at the entire project again from scratch before you make the final decision whether to ditch the work already done, of course.