Project delays can be frustrating and costly, especially in a small business with a tight budget. Even a single cost overrun can be financially devastating to a small operation. Projects get off track and behind schedule for a variety of different reasons, many of which are preventable with a bit of advanced planning.

Poor Project Scheduling

An ill-planned project sets itself up for problems and delays right from the start. An effective project plan details every aspect of implementation, from staffing and budget to key processes and deadlines. Write out a comprehensive project plan before you undertake an endeavor to ensure it is cost-effective, has appropriate manpower and can be achieved within the parameters you set. If you're undertaking a lengthy project, build in periodic checks and balances to ensure everything is on track as anticipated.

Lack of Cooperation

Project team members who are unable to collaborate effectively through cooperative efforts can experience delays, especially when it comes to deadlines. If one team member misses a deadline, it sets up a scenario in which subsequent deadlines are also behind schedule. Be firm in outlining specific roles and responsibilities for your team members, and make meeting deadlines a non-negotiable aspect of every project.

Changing Cost Structure

If you get into a project and find that you underestimated budgetary needs or see that the price of materials and supplies have increased during the course of the project, it can cause delays. You may be faced with cutting the parameters of the project to meet your original budget or coming up with additional financing to accommodate changes. For best results, overestimate expenses when initially planning your project to account for unanticipated costs.

Client Changes

Requested changes from a client or customer during the course of a project can throw timing off track. For example, if a customer decides to alter the scope of a project by making additions or deletions or otherwise changing parameters, your project plan and timeline will have to be reworked. To avoid this potential scenario, require customers to sign off on a detailed contractual description of the project prior to its start. Build in protections for yourself, such as price increases and monetary time delay penalties to accommodate client changes.

Outside Influences

Sometimes, projects will be delayed due to outside influences beyond your control. For example, inclement weather can delay a construction project, while a slow supply shipment can delay a retailer’s planned roll-out of a new product. Get into the habit of having contingency plans built into your project wherever possible. If delays occur, you can go to your backup agenda as a way to keep things as focused, on track and on budget as possible.