A Crash Course in Project Crashing - What Is It and When To Use It in Your Small Business
June 30, 2023
You want to keep your clients happy. What's the best way to do that? Start by meeting project deadlines and exceeding expectations.
However, sticking to deadlines is not always easy. With multiple demands on your resources and a fast-changing market to worry about, you can suddenly find yourself scrambling to finish on time.
There is an emergency option when you hit a crisis situation: project crashing. This article will look at the details of this process. We'll discuss what crashing is, when this strategy should be used, and how to execute it effectively.
What is project crashing?
You have fallen behind on a critical project. Or maybe a key client has asked you to speed up delivery. Whatever the cause, it suddenly looks like you won't make an important deadline.
How can you expedite the process? Project crashing offers one potential strategy.
In this process, you commit additional resources to the endeavor. This could include hiring part-time help to expand your capacity or farming parts of the project to outside vendors. Basically, you swap money for time, swallowing the additional expense in an effort to finish earlier.
To better understand the tradeoff involved, consider project crashing in contrast to another potential strategy: fast-tracking. In fast-tracking, you make structural changes to accelerate the overall timeline. For instance, you might attempt to do certain tasks simultaneously, rather than in succession.
However, crashing takes the concept a step further. While fast-tracking looks to shorten the timeline while keeping expenses the same, project crashing involves additional overall resources. You commit more of your budget to the endeavor to get it done quicker.
While fast-tracking looks to shorten the timeline while keeping expenses the same, project crashing involves additional overall resources. You commit more of your budget to the endeavor to get it done quicker.
When should you crash a project?
There are often significant benefits to accelerating a project's timeline. Satisfying a specific client, beating a competitor working on a similar project, achieving a contractual early-completion bonus, overcoming unforeseen delays — the motivations for crashing can appear in various ways. However, are these worth the costs involved?
Deciding when to crash a project is simple in concept. However, the choice can become extremely complex in practice. In theory, you just need to weigh whether the additional resources are worth the reward. However, making that determination requires a detailed view of the individual situation.
While the final decision will depend largely on the individual circumstances, there are some general factors to keep in mind. Here are a few steps to follow as you ponder whether to invest additional resources to complete a project sooner:
Decide whether it’s possible to crash the project successfully. Before investing additional resources in the effort, review your options carefully. Map out the possibilities and see if a crash would be likely to meet the current deadline.
Determine the consequences of missing the deadline. It's important to understand the benefits of amping up your effort on this particular project. With this in mind, you can weigh the upside with the potential cost of the crash.
Estimate the costs necessary to crash the project. This is the other side of the equation. Compare the expense involved with the benefits you expect to achieve by moving up the timeline.
How to crash a project
First step: decide when to crash. Second step (and this one is just as important): know how to crash. The process you use to accelerate your project will make a big difference in the outcome. The right approach will ensure the best results, while putting minimal strain on your budget.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you get the best results when you crash a project:
Prioritize your goals: When crashing a project, you should look to narrow your objectives. Concentrate on the project's core aspects and save secondary considerations for a future upgrade.
Focus your resources: As you increase spending to accelerate your project, understand the ROI of every expenditure. Look for investments that will allow you to shrink the timeline as much as possible.
Leverage technology: Take advantage of tech solutions. Any shortcuts (like AI) can maximize the value of your crash.
Involve your team in the process: Get creative about your approach. Brainstorm with your employees and use their insights to maximize your efforts.
Crashing best practices
We've looked at some of the details that can help you maximize the results when you crash a project. There are broader factors to consider as well. Here are a few of the best practices to make crashing a more effective option overall:
Constantly review your project's progress
Is it time to crash? You won't know unless you have a good sense of how well a project is going. Build a strong tracking process into every project. That way you'll have the information you need to make the optimal decisions about when to accelerate.
As you make your assessment, stay as clear-eyed as possible. It's easy to get swayed by optimistic estimates or glass-half-full interpretations of a project's momentum. Come at the review process with a critical, rational framework, letting you make the most realistic judgement possible.
When crashing a project, you should look to narrow your objectives. Concentrate on the project's core aspects and save secondary considerations for a future upgrade.
Have contingency plans in place
Know your options. As your project progresses, think about what you would do if you needed to accelerate the timeline. This way, you already have a crashing plan sketched out if circumstances demand a more drastic turn.
Start as early as possible
If you're going to crash, make the decision as early as possible. Having some runway means you don't need to implement the most extreme alternatives. Starting sooner lets you consider a "gentler crash" — granting you additional optionality and saving you money.
Develop a strong system of communication
Every part of the crashing process requires strong communication with your team. This includes deciding whether to crash and, when you do, figuring out the best process to achieve the biggest bang for your buck. You'll also need to deliver instructions effectively and efficiently, coordinating the crash and keeping everyone in harmony.
All this requires you to lay the groundwork early. Have robust communication procedures in place. Create structures that allow you to receive regular feedback from your team and give you the ability to coordinate their actions effectively.
Knowing when (and how) to crash a project
You feel that sudden panic. A key deadline is looming and, if you keep on the current schedule, you'll never be ready in time. Crashing can help you ramp up your timeline, focus your resources, and drive eventual success.
Of course, crashing requires extra costs. Still, it can be a crucial strategy for keeping your clients happy. Use the information provided here to better understand this option and to prepare your small business to use it as needed.