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It might be time for a rebirth, or a "come to Jesus" meeting, as a CTO I worked for would say.

The facts

  • The project is behind schedule
  • The project still needs to be completed

You suspect...

  • Others are burned out too
  • The project planning was/is mismanaged.

What can be done?

The project is already behind and everyone is still chugging away with no change. This is a classic scenario for bad decisions to be made (imagine a basketball game where you are down by a lot — it's easy to just start throwing up three pointers which have no more chance of success than they did before), and since the project is behind you know something went wrong somewhere.

The time that you are behind is a sunk cost and as much as everyone feels the urgency to keep their heads down, with no time for planning, recuperation, or organization — those things are still the best way to make the project a success going forward. Otherwise, you will surely experience diminishing returns as the way you are working is not sustainable.

So, I would bring the facts, your suspicions, and a proposal to your manager. Tell me you think this is the best way to make the project successful. The team needs to get together and have a meeting to discuss the following things:

  • What is left to be done
  • Is anything off-track beyond saving
  • Does any realignment of strategy or planning need to happen on the remaining work?
  • Pick a new deadline. How long realistically will the remaining work take? Re-estimate it however your group works, with an emphasis on worst-case. Remember Hofstadter's Law:

    It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law

  • Are the current daily and weekly processes and work schedules going to be effective and sustainable for the time remaining?
  • Can any general team-health efforts (brainstorming meetings, book clubs, team lunches, encouraging/scheduling vacations for individual team members) increase the ability of the team to execute against the newly-planned deadline?

As you or your manager bring up these issues, if your suspicions are correct, other team members will begin to express their concerns as well. You're going to have to figure out what's gone wrong and it's easier to do that all at once. Hopefully you can all walk away with a renewed sense of purpose, productivity, and sustainability. That's the best way I know to fight project burn-out.