Updated on June 2022.
You know the scene. The team has tried to get back on the plan but everything in the medical device project seems to be running disastrously off the rails and no one quite knows why. The budget is shot, the team is disorganized and the finger-pointing has begun. Senior executives meet in a fact-finding effort to identify the problem and hope to find a solution.
If this were a movie, this is when a stranger walks in with sage advice that cuts through the fog and brings clarity to the situation. If this is your company, it is where you decide to hire an expert medical device project management consultant to identify why your project went off track, what the issues are, and how to get it up and running again while minimizing the losses.
This post will help you identify the early warning signs that indicate your project is about to go off track. It’ll also offer solutions to bring it back on track.
Let’s start with understanding the early warning signs that tell you when your project is going off the rails and what you can do about those.
If you’re not actively involved in the project, these are the signs your project manager needs to watch out for.
1. Some of your project management team is working on tasks that don’t seem to be related to the medical device project you signed up for. The project manager needs to ask the involved team members the reason behind doing those tasks and how they fit into the current project parameters.
2. Team members are disagreeing on the priority of the task being performed. The project manager can mediate that and try to understand the root of the conflict. Are the team members working on the same project? Are they clear about the project vision, definition, and timeline?
3. Team members are misaligned about the project milestones, where they fall on the project timeline, and setting them up so that the next milestone can be achieved. The medical device project manager needs to be aware of the project milestones and ensure that every team member is aware as well. The best way to move forward would be to plan the milestones together so everyone takes ownership of the project.
4. Sometimes the project goals are really aspirational and the planning around them doesn’t take that into account. Resulting in not meeting that goal, leading to low morale among team members. This can be avoided by taking into account every little detail needed to make the aspirational goal achievable and planning for it in advance. Replan if necessary while keeping the speed-cost-quality trade-off in mind. Think Elon musk vs Steve Jobs. It’s also the medical device project manager’s job to get people excited about achieving every milestone on time and within budget.
5. Low morale among the team members.
6. Sometimes there’s also a distinct lack of camaraderie and an attitude about the project that rubs the wrong way. Maybe the team members are not getting along, or they’ve lost enthusiasm for the project. Perhaps they don’t respect each other anymore. The project manager needs to find out the reason behind the low morale, address it, set up a plan to bring it up, and push the team to do their best.
7. Project is over the budget early on. The project manager can ensure that this doesn’t happen by pulling up the project costs every 2 weeks, keeping track of them, and adjusting where necessary.
8. Team members are working on something new that’s related to the project, but not in the initial project brief. This is where the project manager needs to ask if the additions remain protective of the company, if they would lead to advancements, if the quality would be maintained, and so on. They need to convey that importance, the why, and the priorities to the medical device team and stick to them – over and over again.
9. The project timelines are not met and milestones start to slip. Unforeseen risks derail the project. The project manager needs to watch for the task start dates and ensure that they are met.
10. Under or overutilization of resources. If the project manager keeps a tab on the resources, they know when they’re over or underutilized. In that case, they can identify the reson behind it and take steps to correct it.
All these signs are indicative of 3 key issues that can cause a medical device project to go off the rails.
Problem #1: The project is not defined
Solution: You need to know what the project is in relation to the company, team, and the employees and what it is not. How does it fit in with the company goals? If you’re well into the project, step back and define it now in 25 words or less.
One simple example of a clearly defined project was President John F. Kennedy’s speech to put a man on the moon and return him safely before the decade of the 1960s was out. The goal was simple, the timeline was simple, and the budget was extraordinary. Everyone understood the goal, everyone bought into the goal, and a country united itself financially and industrially to achieve that goal in the timeline he laid out.
Problem # 2: The project is not planned well
Solution: Determine your 6 month project goals and plan 2 week sprints to get there. What are the project drivers, the project goals, the responsibilities of each team member? What does the budget and the time estimate look like? Plan it as a team so the entire team owns it, not just the project manager. The project manager must hold the team accountable.
Problem #3: Scope creep
If you allow many large and small changes to the project over time, without managing them; there’s a high chance of your medical device project going off the rails. Managing scope creep is only possible if your project is defined and planned well. So if something gets added, you need to be able to define its impact on the project. Maybe it doesn’t fit with the definition of the project. Perhaps it will make the project go over time or budget. Only after defining its impact on the medical device project you can decide whether or not that addition is acceptable.
What early warning signs do you see in your project?
Start your next medical device project with the Waddell Group
Our team of experts has worked with start-ups and Fortune 100 companies. There’s no project too small or too large for our strategic-level project leaders for the medical device industry. Our highly experienced consultants know how to lead teams, manage in times of crisis, and influence change. We offer expertise, intellectual property, and proven methodology. Contact us or give us a call at 952.221.3333 to get started