Coming Back To Life
This is the final installment in the series on challenged projects. In the first post, I talked about challenged projects, their symptoms and typical root causes. In my second post, I talked about how killing a project is one of the ways to deal with a challenged project. In this post, I will talk about the other option to deal with a challenged project – recovery or rescue.
Projects don’t go from on-track to failed overnight. They first become troubled or challenged. And the “troubled” period, however distressing, is an opportunity—often the absolute last opportunity—to turn things around and make the project a success. It is important to have a good project control system in place to quickly identify a troubled project.
In order to assess and recover troubled projects, organizations typically use an external consultant to provide an objective (read unbiased) assessment of the problem. At Stratellect Consulting, where Project Rescue & Optimization is one of our key services, we have developed a framework that enables a quick assessment cycle and a high project rescue success rate. At a high level, it consists of 4 steps for turning a troubled project into a successful one.
1. Plan and perform an objective assessment of the project status
The purpose of the assessment is to determine the current “real” status of the project and identify the root causes. Once a Project Recovery Team (PRT) has been identified, conduct a kick-off meeting with the key stakeholders to explain the scope & objective of this exercise. Also, everyone must understand that the focus of the assessment is on helping the project team, not finding faults with past actions and decisions.
The PRT will assess the vital signs of the project (schedule, cost, scope, issues, risks etc.) and determine their variances. This is only a part of the story. One needs to keep an eye on the human elements (team morale, customer satisfaction, lack of management involvement etc.) to understand the real status of the project. Conducting an assessment includes the following activities -
- Reviewing critical project documentation such as Project Charter, SOW, Plan, WBS, Schedule, Risks & Metrics
- Interviewing & meetings with key stakeholders such as Project Team, PM/PMO, Sponsor, Customer, SMEs & Vendors
- Analyze the data gathered to identify the root causes, threats & opportunities
The findings are documented and presented to the key stakeholders to take a call on whether the project is a good candidate for recovery.
2. Create the recovery plan to get the project back on track
The goal of the recovery plan is to develop a re-baselined plan that re-aligns the project to the business objectives, identifies corrective measures and produces an achievable schedule. It establishes the roadmap & the processes to achieve this goal. It is during this stage that the recovery strategy is identified.
Some of the options are –
- Scale down the scope of the project so as to finish within time and budget
- Re-establish a motivated team
- Push the schedule, increase the budget and proceed with the original scope
- Re-engineer broken processes and implement critical processes that did not exist
It is imperative to have the Recovery Plan approved by the key stakeholders to ensure the necessary buy-in and involvement.
3. Execute the recovery plan and monitor it continuously
The objective of this phase is to execute the steps identified in the plan and perform comprehensive tracking & controlling to ensure that the project stays on track. Communication of the progress, status & forecast to the stakeholders is key.
The PRT maintains strict control over project metrics such as schedule/cost variance, issues, risks & changes. They should be quick to make any adjustments to ensure that the project remains on track. The PRT ensures that the team morale remains high by acknowledging progress & rewarding the team for achieving timely milestones. Frequent status reports and updates to the customer ensure transparency & high satisfaction levels.
4. Effectively close the project and leverage the lessons learned
Once all the deliverables have been met & verified, the PRT will conduct a review meeting with the key stakeholders. The key stakeholders provide a signoff on the recovery effort and acknowledge that the objectives have been met. All the learnings – what worked and what did not work – are documented as reference for future projects.
As you can see, recovering a troubled project is a major initiative and requires significant effort from all involved. In most cases, a little extra effort in project management activities such as planning & monitoring can prevent the project from getting into trouble. You just need to know the right way to do it.