The best way to manage these situations is to prevent them; however, no matter how well you monitor the project, unexpected circumstances will test your ability to coordinate it.
There are situations such as the delay of completion of a deliverable or a non-performing partner in your project that put at risk the submission of that key deliverable which most probably is a project milestone, and hence put at risk the project implementation.
Depending on how large your consortium is, most likely, you are dealing with at least three or four new partners (if your consortium is larger than ten members) with whom you have never worked before; perhaps they were contacts suggested by other partners, or they had relevant references. They agreed to work with you for the first time at the proposal stage. Whether you have worked with them before or not, they could be lagging or non-performing. If this is the case, you need to deal with the situation the best way possible before implementing drastic changes that may require administrative intervention of your Project Officer (PO).
There are indications that a partner might not meet a deliverable deadline; for example, when you look at your GANTT chart, that particular task you are reviewing should start one or two months before the current date. Yet, it has not begun... What does it mean to start a task? The first activity should be initial meetings about the task implementation. Suppose the task requires inputs from partners, who should have proper resources assigned. In that case, it should be foreseen, and the task leader should plan ahead to gather information/ inputs from the relevant consortium members.
It is often the case that you have a Quality Assurance Planning Manual, a Project Management Toolbox or a project handbook where you can follow steps for efficient project monitoring. Here are a few tips and advice to accompany your project handbook/toolbox/quality assurance plan to prevent a delay in a deliverable and avoid changes in task leaders:
- Read your project's quality assurance plan carefully, be familiar with the protocol to submit the deliverables, and remind partners about it.
- Prepare for your regular Work Package/ Task leaders meeting: you should check which tasks are supposed to start or finish, what deliverables are coming, and regularly check the GANTT chart (even if you do not have a meeting).
- Suggest to WP leaders that you, as coordinator, would like to be involved in a Work Package (WP) Kick-off meeting (for the projects where you have such meetings planned).
- Pay attention to tasks or deliverables that need input from most of the consortium; in the regular meetings, you can remind the WP leader and all partners about this particular task.
- If you notice that a partner is lagging and you have the possibility to talk to them in person (for example, during the break of a project meeting), use this opportunity to speak to them frankly and ask if there are issues at their organizational level and if they need your support to facilitate the decision-making process. Or arrange an online bilateral meeting.
- Give a timeframe for immediate action to remediate the situation without making a drastic change (change of task leader).
- Have a plan B, start contacting potential partners who could take over the task, and explore with them how many resources they have. Check the Person Months (PM) Rates in your budget, as the non-performing partner might have a lower PM rate which means that the numbers of PMs transferred to the partners taking over will be lower.
- Give the non-performing partner an ultimatum, with the option of transferring a task to another partner (which should be agreed upon in parallel with the other partner).
Suppose there are no significant issues in the organization, for example, a sudden lack of capacity or absence of the task leader due to unforeseen/new commitments. In that case, the ultimatum should be an effective way to correct actions and put everything back on track and avoid contacting the PO.
I invite you to stay tuned in our blog space to read more about how to deal with deliverable delays and changes in the task leads when they’ve already happened and no prevention method can be applied anymore.
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