How to Fast Track a Project

When a project goes awry or has a shorter than normal timeline, there are actions you can take to deliver the project on time without altering the scope of the project. You can consider fast tracking or crashing the project. Fast tracking a project involves reconfiguring and compressing an existing schedule into a shortened time period. This requires you to conduct events in a simultaneous manner, rather than sequentially. Crashing shortens a project timeline by adding manpower or other resources to the project. In this article, we discuss how to use the project management technique of fast tracking.

What is Fast Tracking?

In its simplest terms, fast tracking is what happens when you complete the same project in a shorter time period. You should be prepared to face some challenges and risks when fast tracking a project. The key to fast tracking is to not sacrifice the quality or scope of the project while staying true to the budget.

The fast track process is typically broken down into six steps: analyze, define, negotiate, action, charter, deliver, and improve. Here’s a brief overview of each step.

Analyzing Your Project for Fast Tracking

Not every project is right for fast tracking, and before you make the decision, you should carefully analyze yours to ensure it can be properly applied. Start with your reasons for wanting to fast track the project. Some of the most common are:

  • To make up for lost time on the project
  • Circumstances have changed and you need to complete the project earlier than expected
  • To best use resources and ensure maximum productivity

Next, it’s important to determine whether or not the project is suitable for fast tracking. Do this by comparing the demands of the project to the current capabilities of those involved. It’s possible that in order to complete the project in a shorter amount of time, you will have to compromise and make some tradeoffs in the process—all while keeping true to the project goals.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself in order to determine whether or not your project is suited for fast tracking:

  • What need will this project fill for the business?
  • Specifically, what are you tasked to do and deliver?
  • What are your current capabilities in regards to time, budget, skills, knowledge, staff resources, and equipment?

Now, take a step back and determine whether or not your current capabilities can fulfill the demands. If the answer is yes, you probably don’t need to fast track the project. But if they can’t, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you able to compromise or accept tradeoffs to complete the project?
  • Will the stakeholders agree to compromises or accept tradeoffs?
  • Will fast tracking allow you to complete the project on time?

If so, then it’s time to move on to the next step in the process.

Defining Your Project

Next, you’ll need to fully define your project to get a clear picture of what you are required to deliver, why it’s so important, and exactly what it will take to complete the project. In this step, you’ll need to identify the project’s priorities, and then determine whether or not fast tracking will allow you to complete them to the stakeholder’s satisfaction.

In a nutshell, this part of the process forces you to look at the project as a whole and then resize it to allow the priorities to take center stage. In order to best define your projects priorities, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Look at each demand in the project and determine if it’s necessary to finish the project on time, on budget, and for the overall completion of the project.
  • Look at the project demands again and determine if they contribute to the overall purpose of the project. In other words, will they help with the goals, scope, and deliverables of the project?
  • Finally, look at each goal and determine whether it hampers or propels the project towards achievability.

Now you should look at your original timeline analytically and identify any dependencies or other opportunities to fast track portions of the project. See where you can close time gaps by starting one process before another one is completed. Get a clear picture of your alternatives in the schedule, and then use all this information to make an informed decision about what steps should be cut or rescheduled to shorten the timeline.

Negotiate to Fast Track Your Project

Now that you’ve determined your project is right for fast tracking and have fully defined the priorities, it’s time to negotiate with the stakeholders for the fast tracking process. After all, if the stakeholders don’t buy into the process, it probably won’t be successful.

It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone involved will agree on the fast tracking process, or even whether or not it should be done, so negotiations must be made with care and thoughtfulness. Here are some good rules of thumb when designing the process:

  • Begin negotiations only when you have completed the first two steps of the process.
  • Create a mission statement for the process that defines the goals and expected results.
  • Appoint a leader who will oversee the negotiations.
  • Give each stakeholder participating in the process a specific role and responsibilities.
  • Agree on a code of conduct that all stakeholders must adhere to.
  • Set a deadline for the negotiations to ensure the project can be completed on time.
  • All stakeholders must agree to commit to the process, even when obstacles arise.

Redefine Your Project as Actionable Steps

Now that all stakeholders have agreed to fast track the project, it should be restated in a way that clearly shows how it will be accomplished. In other words, the terms of the project need to be expressed in a way that communicates its goals, size, cost, value, deliverables, and schedules. To do this, you will need to show how the project can be carried out, understood by all the stakeholders, measured, and achieved.

In addition to showing what the project will deliver and how, you should also make clear what it will not do in order to avoid any future confusion.

Make it Official with a Charter

Now that everyone is on board and the project has been redefined, it’s time to ask all stakeholders to sign a charter, which is a contract outlining how and when the project will be fast tracked. This contract collaboration will enable you to go forward with the fast tracking, so the project can be completed with the utmost productivity.

This document will serve multiple purposes. First, it should be used to document everything that was agreed upon during the negotiations stage. Then, after all stakeholders have signed it (to save time, they can sign online using e-signatures if you use a contracts management cloud service), use the document to measure the progress of the project and stay within the appointed timeline.

If you require changes along the way, they will be easy to make with an agreement management system. In the end, you will have a record of all agreements, changes, and decisions, which will provide post-project reviewers with a factual record of events.

Now all that’s left to do is execute the project and ensure your deliverables are made on time. As in most business processes, it’s important to learn from the experience so the next time you’re forced to fast track a project, you will be able to administer the process with more efficiency.