How and When to Pivot a Project Strategy

At the end of the day, managers are the individuals responsible for a project’s success. They are there from the moment the planning starts and they shepherd each project through to completion. This means it falls to managers to decide if a project is successfully accomplishing its objective — not just when it comes to the results, but throughout its execution, as well.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on why you may need to pivot a strategy midway through a project as well as suggestions for how to do so.

Why Pivots Are Necessary

Before diving into the nitty-gritty aspects of how to pivot a project, it should first be clarified that a pivot is never desirable. In fact, ideally, most projects should never get to the point where a full-blown pivot is required.

The idea of a “pivot” has become a buzzword in recent years. This has somewhat romanticized the notion. However, in reality, a genuine pivot is typically made in order to deviate away from an original business model that has become unsustainable. In other words, it’s done to correct a problem.

This naturally makes a pivot an undesirable option. In addition, a pivot can come with several downsides. For instance, pivots can be expensive, especially when they require restructuring and retraining on a larger scale. They can also damage a brand, especially if multiple pivots take place. This can establish a reputation for poor judgment and a lack of foresight.

In other words, it’s important to realize that a pivot doesn’t equate to a panacea. It isn’t a magic bullet that will make all of your problems go away. Nevertheless, pivots can and have saved many enterprises from challenging situations, and understanding the need to pivot at specific times is a critical management ability that can save time, effort, and resources from being wasted.

A few of the most common reasons for pivots to take place include:

  • Industry trends: If an industry is shifting its focus, it may make sense to pivot in an attempt to realign with your customer base.
  • Financial concerns: If you see that your current strategy is operating at a fiscally unsustainable burn rate, a pivot can help you head off financial issues in the future.
  • Other possible delays: Anything from concerns with manufacturing to losing a team member can create the need to pivot as a response.
  • When strategy and objectives no longer line up: If your original objective changes, it can naturally create the need to pivot a project’s strategy.

How to Pivot Mid-Project

If you find that you’re considering a pivot for your current project, here are a few suggestions for ways to pull off the realignment without a hitch.

Embrace Agile Project Management

If you follow a traditional “waterfall” project management style, you may want to consider embracing an agile project management approach instead.

This philosophy focuses on concepts like flexibility, teamwork, and customer collaboration. It is ideally suited to adapting to the unknown demands of a pivot and can do so much easier than a traditional management model.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

If you’re going to make a pivot, you have to be able to communicate as you do so. Communication is an essential ingredient of strong team collaboration. Your team must remain aligned and instep as they go through an often-dramatic shift in procedures, policies, operations, and even goals and objectives.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to establish clear lines of communication so that your team doesn’t become isolated during the changes.

Equip Your Team

If you’re going to make a pivot, ensure that your team is well equipped to handle it. This includes everything from providing any necessary training to utilizing collaboration tools to keep your team on the same page.

If your team isn’t properly equipped with the tools and knowledge to succeed, it can undermine the success of your pivot before it even starts.

Plan for Challenges

Just because you’re making a pivot doesn’t mean all of your problems will go away. On the contrary, by pivoting, you’re opening the door for a host of new problems to present themselves.

Make sure to take the time to look ahead and consider any new issues that may arise in the future in relation to the pivot itself. That way you’ll be better equipped to manage them if and when they arise.

Pivoting Your Project Strategy

Pivots are major business events that should never be taken lightly. Nevertheless, there are times that they aren’t just a good idea, they can save a project from disaster.

If you think your project strategy has become dated, you may need to make a pivot in order to reorient your team in a new direction. When that’s the case, make sure to prepare beforehand. Keep communication open, equip your team for the changes, embrace an agile project management approach, and plan for potential challenges that lie ahead.

If you can go into the pivot with all of this in mind, you’ll be putting yourself in the best position to succeed as your team launches itself in a new direction.


Jori Hamilton
Jori Hamilton
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest who enjoys covering topics related to social justice, the changing workplace, and technology.

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