Once you have started on a project it is expected that you will follow through the plan as laid out in your proposal. Small adjustments to the emphasis that you put on different aspects of the work and refinements to the plan made as you go are of course always acceptable. However, in a very few cases, candidates want or need to make larger changes, and this section discusses that possibility. There are two classes of circumstance that might force you to have to abandon a project part way through and re-design it from the start or seek another. The first would be if (despite proper checking earlier on) some vital piece of hardware, software or data suddenly became unavailable and no alternative could be found. Cases of this sort should be very rare given the processes involved in getting the Project Resource Form signed, but natural or man-made disasters (lightning strikes, fires, floods, ...)sometimes occur, and it is not always possible to recover from them rapidly enough to allow a one-year project to proceed undisturbed. The second case arises when a candidate finds that work is progressing much more slowly than originally predicted and that it is unrealistic to expect that the targets originally set will be attained.
In both of these cases there are three steps involved in getting the project back under control:
- Identify as promptly as possible that there is a problem which could potentially grow into a serious one. Get in touch with your Supervisor and discuss the issue, trying to see whether there is an easy way to side-step the problem. [Regular milestones let you spot work-rate problems.]
- Try to get the difficulty resolved, setting a fixed date and a clearly stated way of knowing whether your problems are over. [e.g. “If the extra hardware is delivered by next Friday I will be able to catch up”.]
- If step 2 does not correct your problems, seek further help from your Director of Studies as well as your Supervisor and, if your project will have to end up being significantly different from that described in your project proposal, get in touch with your Overseers or the Briefing Officer.
It should be obvious that problems are much easier to resolve if found early, and if discussed with your various advisers. Large changes of direction in a project are very strongly discouraged, and you should expect Supervisors, Directors of Studies and the Overseers to suggest ways of getting approximations to the original work done. These may include simulating unavailable equipment, concentrating more on a secure (if perhaps unexciting) aspect of a project or re-arranging your affairs by giving up other activities to make more time available for project work.