A project goes on hold when something keeps it from making progress, when you realize that the deadline won’t be met, or when decisions aren’t being made between key stakeholders. Budget conflicts, major new features, and internal reorganization are just some reasons out of many why a project gets put on pause.
That’s not to mean that anyone is in the wrong, no matter what the reason for a hold. After all, we’re all here for the same thing—a successful launch. We are different companies with separate organizational structures, teaming up to solve problems. Working on the same side of the table as our clients means finding a way to flow together, no matter how differently we function independently. When your client relationship has a strong foundation, it will greatly affect how you approach a project when it goes on hold.
Back to Basics
So, you’ve hit a stopping point. Now what? Is your project doomed to live in product purgatory until someone dusts it off again, or does it mean you both need to walk away and take a breather? Neither. It means it’s time to dig deeper—to adapt, iterate, and get back on track.
When a project is put on hold, it gives you and your team the chance to revisit your initial objectives and what brought you together in the first place. Remember the original vision of the project and allow your team and your client to step back and reevaluate how your benchmarks have now changed. Beyond just the project, what are the values of your company and those of your client? Where did you drift off from them and how can you reintegrate them into this project?
Takes Change to Make Change
A project hold is also an opportunity to fix any kinks in communication with your client. During this adjustment period, resources and communication streams will inevitably change, and it’s important to be flexible and change with them. Analyze your communication strategy and what you can do to improve the way you interact, both with your client and your team. Should you start checking in once a day or once a week with your stakeholders? Are there communication channels that work better for them that you haven’t been utilizing? Be willing to rapidly adapt so you can effectively respond to challenges with a new approach every time.
Prep for a Pause
We may be working backwards by mentioning this now, but one of the only ways to truly be prepared for a hold is to set expectations for one beforehand. That way everyone knows who to turn to if things aren’t moving along as expected. Here at PRPL, we have a Statement of Work (SOW) that details the possibility of a project going on hold and what will happen next.
For us, once we’ve reached 10 days without progress, the project officially goes on hold. Making this clear from the outset helps us stay transparent with each other and keeps everyone accountable on both sides. Having clear timeframes and progress points are also helpful to avoiding obstacles in the first place.
As with everything else we do, each project has it’s own unique challenges and catered solutions, so there is no sure-fire fix to every project that goes on hold. For example, a project’s on-hold status may look differently depending on the stage and scope of the work. If a product is near launch but postponed because of budget limitations, it may be quicker to pick back up than a project that never left Research & Strategy.
After a setback in your timeline, it’s time to create a new one to accommodate. Being on hold means the team’s resources are likely reassigned to other tasks until the project picks back up. That means timelines, due dates, and availability may change. Now more than ever, clear communication is crucial. If the scope of the project changes and new rates have to be calculated, project managers want to let the client know as soon as possible. That way, when everyone’s ready to jump back on the project, you can all start with a clear understanding of how to avoid future roadblocks.
Patience and Persistence
Although nobody may like having to take a break when they’re in the groove, use it as a chance to adapt, grow, and learn for future initiatives. When you feel stuck on hold, keep your balance between patience and persistence, allowing time for your team and the client to ground their thoughts while also making sure the project does indeed pick up again.
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