Stop it now! When to stop a project and how to activate it back

How many times have you been in the situation when a project is not performing? Are you overwhelmed on other activities? Maybe this certain project is like a third lag on your body? Do you want to stop it now? When to stop a project and how to activate it back?

Hey Crizpers, let’s dive into the moments when we are concerned about some projects and we are not able to push them forward efficiently. I am referring to the situation when the project is not performing due to some third party reason, but the low qualification of a manager. Sometimes we need to make a hard decision about killing this creature for letting others to survive. When should me do this?


To pause a project we need to have it in a certain condition. We need a diagnosis that confirms the situation to put a project on a table. What symptoms a project should have to let us consider a necessity of stopping our works on it?

Let’s skip the cases when a customer is not paying of has simply disappeared. And the obvious one when the team has not received a confirmation to start the work. I am suggesting to look into other events when we need to make a decision based on certain preconditions.



As Project Managers we are usually the doctors who monitor the project status. We are the ones who check out its fever, progress and execution process. This means we should always have a finger on a pulse and a thermometer ready. Checking out the KPIs and the project growth towards them we can timely notice the moment when a performance is getting down. 

When this point is caught, it is time to enable the analytical skills. We need to define what is the reasons for this downgrade.

We are not going to consider zombies from our closet, but the life projects that we have in our active list. Even if they are still active and breathing, they may require to be stopped.

The first symptom is always a low performance. This means we either have an issue on a project, or the priorities have been shifted. A change in priorities mad this project not the forefront now.

What about Priority?

If we see that there are no internal project problems, everybody is clear what to work on and how to execute, let’s try to clarify whether there is any change in the project priority. This issue may occur either if we have several projects from one customer for the same team, or this is an internal organizational activity. 

Should this be a customer project, we need to measure the information we have about his or her projects and to clarify the situation directly. 

Same is with the internal projects. We are estimating and judging the current situation and moving towards the priorities clarity from the key stakeholders.

What we need to get is the focus point project. Besides, we need to find out what to do with the low performing project. 

There are several possible options we would get as a result.

What if We Were Wrong?

Although we have identified external issues on a project and started our performance-based investigation, there is still a possibility of a confusion.

We may have perceived an overall situation wrongly and the project was braking unfairly. Therefore, it is extremely important to have a Communication Plan and to receive feedback on a regular basis. Should this be our case we are to adjust the work priorities accordingly and to speed up the lagging activities.

Should it still be in a high priority, we need to call for extra forces. Of course, there are still a couple of dependencies present. We need to consider the amount of additional funds needed for engaging more people in the team either from internal or external resources. Or maybe we need to lower the priority of another project to favor this one.. In any case, if the project is still ranking, this is not a topic of the day.


Low Ranking Project

As we are now working hard on receiving frequent feedback, we have a chance to refine out information about projects timely. So what to do with the project that is not performing?

What if the project really has a low priority? And how much lower it is in comparison with other projects? Here we have two options. First is to re-plan it accordingly considering the available amount of resources. Another alternative is to finally stop it now and revive the project later when the priority of it will be increased again. 

Frankly speaking, the solution would depend on the customer or on the key stakeholders. Nevertheless, from the efficiency perspective I would incline to pause the work.

Stop it now! Why?

Why should we stop it now? In a couple of words, to speed up its initiation and, as a result, its completion afterwords. As it is now not a top-priority project, keeping it active will eat our resources dramatically and will postpone the completion of all other works together with this piece of the pie.

There is a belief that multitasking is a sign of efficiency. However, switching from project to project decreases the level of attention and the overall performance of each individual. And, when it is a group of individuals, a.k.a. a project team, the performance of all project may be impacted negatively. 

Should we have a possibility to put any of the works on hold, we should always choose this option. Letting a team focus on a sole activity will help to speed up its completion point. And then we will be able to effectively switch to another portion of execution. 

I am not sure whether Caesar was efficient doing seven activities simultaneously… But what if you will eat, watch something, do squats and talk all together, how fast and how much efficient would you be able to perform in all these actions? Same is in projects. Thus, if there is a chance to put a sole focus, use this chance.

In any case, we should keep in mind and inform the customer and the stakeholders that pausing and reactivation may demand additional budget. Read on the get more insight on it.

How to Activate it Back

We know how to pause the project. To refresh this action check out the ‘Zombies’ topic. Now what if this was not a walking dead, but an intentionally suspended project? How to finally complete this work?

The important subject to be clarified in advance, what dependencies this project has and what is its order of priority? Considering the plans of the ranking projects we need to setup a moment when we are to reactivate the paused one. The more precise this moment is the better. This means we need to understand, after what work we can start the paused project again. 

Before the project reactivation we have a bunch of work to do. Obviously, we will not be able to use the old plan of work. I am now referring to the project dependencies.

replan the work

First, we are to clarify details about the project resources. Would we have a chance to use the same team, same tools and same environment? What is needed to start the work from the resources perspective. Better to be aware of this in advance and before the projects pausing. We need to clarify what impact on a budget we are going to accept. 

Next, this of course would touch our schedule. There was a break, so a roadmap should be re-planned. 

And, what is not less important, review the project scope. Accurately define what was completed and what was not finalized yet. A wise move would be to sync up with the customer and stakeholders to refresh the scope and to define if something from the not-completed stuff might has become irrelevant. This would also impact a budget and the timeline. 

Now, once we have all the necessary things on hand together with the approval for works re-initiation, schedule a new kick-off and perform!

Let me know how often do you have to pause projects? How many of them were reactivated after?

If your project needs to be planned or managed, go hop on the Solutions tab to pick the one that is best suitable for the moment!