I’ve been hired to salvage troubled projects before. Sometimes I was successful, other times… well, not so much. Trouble projects are not hard to identify. In fact, it’s relatively easy. They’re chronically late, over budget, have poor quality, and the team is often in disarray. If you’ve been a project manager for any length of time, you will certainly have managed a troubled project. Saving a troubled project is not rocket science, but it is one of the more difficult things to do.
Books have been written on this subject, but here are 5 things you need to do to save a troubled project.
- Admit the problem. This seems obvious, but it is often the first thing that goes astray. Have you ever been on a project, where either the Executive Stakeholders or the Senior Project Managers, just refuse to face reality? They are afraid, I repeat – they are afraid, of failure. They’re afraid of losing their status, their bonuses, and perhaps their jobs. If you cannot talk about the elephant on the table, or discuss the fact that the emperor has no clothes, the project will continue to fail. If you are faced with this problem, you have your work cut out for you. You have two choices. 1) Keep quiet. But realize the project will stay broken. 2) Be brave and confront the problem by taking action. If you are going to take action, be very thoughtful about how you go about this. If you’re not careful, it could cost you your job.
- Identify what’s broken. Talk to any seasoned project manager, and they will tell you there are just a few causes for project failure. Here are the main ones: Ineffective Leadership, poor scope definition, lack of requirements, bad estimates, lack of project control, poor team performance. If you’re not sure where to start, gather the team and start talking through where the problems are. Use your project management process as a guide to determine where the breakdowns are.
- Develop a plan to fix the problem areas. This can be tricky, especially if the problem is centered around a specific part of the organization, team, or an individual. It is especially difficult if the problem lies within the C-suite or upper management. If you’re facing this situation, you should get some outside help in the form of an organizational consultant, or executive coaching.
- Gain commitment to make the changes. If you don’t have commitment at all levels within the organization, you are not going to be able to salvage the project. This is a project in itself. Tackle the organizational changes as a change management initiative. Failure to do this will result in many headaches as you butt your head against the wall.
- Follow through! As you make changes, celebrate success and continue to work on the problem areas. Problem areas have a way of resurfacing, much like a fire that is almost out, but roars back when a little wind comes along to stir it up.
All the best!
All the time!
- Project Health Check : 5 serious project warning signs (tapuniversity.com)
- The Thing Most Overlooked By Project Managers (gnetgroup.wordpress.com)
- Engaging Your Stakeholders (martinwebster.eu)