If you are ever tempted into wondering why a project seems so much easier than you had expected then this should set some alarm bells ringing. Projects are rarely easier than they appeared to be at the start. In fact, in my experience they tend to gain in complexity the more you study them.
So what if you sit back one day and realize that you are having a far easier time of it than you had expected? It isn’t time to panic yet but it is time to think about where you could have gone astray.
You Got the Scope Wrong
The first option to consider is that you are working on the wrong scope. We know about the risks of scope creep but having the opposite of this (scope shrink?) must be even more dangerous. When you come across this in your work then the first problem is going to be around how recognize it. There seem to be few options for doing this other than taking a step back and looking at the big picture; is what you are doing really going to deliver what was asked for in the project definition document? If you aren’t clear on this it is probably time to go back to your stakeholders and business experts and check whether your scope has shrunk without you even realizing it.
You Have Too Many Resources
If you work out that things are going so swimmingly because you have too many resources at your disposal then you could be forgiven a grin of satisfaction. After all, this isn’t something which is going to happen very often and you should make the most of it. Or should you? Well, the big risk here is that you use up too much of your budget or the goodwill of the managers loaning you staff too early on in the project. It is far better to have enough resources to get the job done but without having too much spare. If you are in this situation then maybe you could think about letting someone in your team help out in a colleague’s project until they are needed by you again. This is a move which should keep everyone happy for the time being.
You Are Leaving Too Much for the End
You will have worked out your project plan near the start of the piece of work but did you get it right? If you find that you are now far ahead of the game then you have to consider that your plan probably isn’t as great as you thought it was. One of the main issues you could come across here is that you have left too many of the difficult or time consuming tasks until later on in the project. This would mean that the amount of overall time you have counted might be right but that the distribution of it is wrong. Ideally you will want to front load the project and get off to a strong start. Doing it the opposite way around could lead you into big problems later on when the going gets tough.
You Just Don’t Understand It
Could it be possible that you simply don’t understand what the project is all about, or at least a significant part of it? This would be nothing to be ashamed of, as we all struggle to get to grips with projects at one point or another. However, if you have a sneaking suspicion that this is the case then the longer you allow it carry on then the worse it will get. In this case your first step should be to go back over the whole thing again. Personally, I would go somewhere quiet like an empty meeting room or the staff canteen when it is empty and pore over the details. If this still doesn’t work then I would turn to an experienced colleague with my doubts and see if we could sort it out together. What we need to be careful of here is using us too much time in doing this and letting the piece of work run further away from our control. When all else fails it is time to go back to the stakeholders and admit that there is some level of doubt about how to proceed. It might turn out that these people don’t know what is expected either and a massive rethink is needed by everyone who is involved in the project.