Sometimes, a project just stops moving forward. Problems can pop up and initiate a chain of blockers. The most effective project managers are those who can anticipate, identify, and eliminate these project blockers.
No blockers are insurmountable, but getting past them can be tough if you don’t have a plan or the right tools. Here are some of the best ways to find out why blockers occur and what you can do to get around them.
7 ways to remove project blockers
Whether teams work together or are scattered in different locations and timezones, communication issues can cause a lack of awareness of impeding problems. Customizable, easy-to-use work tracking software will keep teams aligned on any potential project blockers that are, or might arise. Such tools give your teams the opportunity to see each other’s live progress and easily stay informed on any updates, issues, or blockers. Tracking can also give you a roadmap to follow back to the source of the blocker. You’ll be able to see which employees worked on the relevant tasks, when they worked on it, and what the actual problems are. Team members can also comment on any issues or delays they’re experiencing right in the task cards, which can facilitate early-warning communication about problems that are impeding their work.
2. Streamline the approval process
Your approval process may be causing project blockers, if work needs to be approved by specific individuals before any further tasks can proceed. You can remove people from the approval process, add alternate approvers, or even just do away with the approval process entirely. For example, you could move to a system of implicit approval, where supervisors are notified “this is what’s going up tomorrow unless you tell us otherwise or have changes to suggest.”
3. Automate as many tasks as you can
Automating tasks and removing manual steps can make many processes flow much more smoothly. Automation speeds up workflows and eliminates potential bottlenecks and sticking points. It’s also more efficient, easier to monitor, and reduces the amount of time and money you have to spend on training.
4. Build your backlog
Build inbox lists where all unsorted tasks go before they get sorted into to-do, in-progress, completed, or other lists. Inbox lists can be backlogs or request queues. Find someone on the team to take on responsibility for planning and managing backlogged work that needs to be done.
5. Train yourself to recognize when you’re blocked
When it comes to project blockers, denial is a real thing. It’s all too easy to pivot away from a blocker with some vague intentions of coming back to it later, pretending that you’re not blocked, you’re just reprioritizing. Avoidance and procrastination can delay the inevitable for a long time, but sooner or later, blockers have to be dealt with. Sometimes you have to acknowledge that you might need somebody else’s help to complete a task, or that you need to talk to a team member (or their manager) who’s holding up your progress.
6. Communicate about problems asynchronously
Don’t wait for an immediate answer when you have a question about an issue that’s come up — use asynchronous communication platforms, like those provided by your work tracking tools. This will allow you to shift your focus to other tasks you need to work on until you get the information you need.
7. Discuss project blockers in your daily scrum
If you’re working in an Agile development environment, your daily scrum is an ideal time and place to bring up blockers and brainstorm ways to neutralize them. Every daily scrum should include some attempt to tease out blockers — you can ask team members if they had to stop, slow down, or hesitate at any point when they were working on recent tasks. If so, ask what prompted it and what might help them avoid similar issues in the future.
Don’t let project blockers stop you
We all face blockers in our daily tasks, whether they’re minor distractions or seemingly insurmountable problems. By calling them what they are and falling back on a strategy to pinpoint their causes and figure out how to remove them, you can keep your work processes advancing toward their goals. Just make sure you take advantage of your workflow tools and project management software — they’ve all got features and functions designed to help you identify, discuss, and bust through your project blockers.
If tools are a blocker for your collaborative projects, Unito can help by allowing everyone to stay in the tools they know and love.