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Project management: 4 steps to get flagging projects back on track

Ron Ponce | July 7, 2010
Nine questions to help you determine whether to cut your losses on a project or if it's worth recovering, plus four steps for getting your project recovery effort underway.

The last question about change is critical because it touches on the people and political issues that are present in any project and any organization. Even when faced with sure failure, people find it hard to change unless there is a direct benefit to them and their team. For recovery to have a chance, expectations need to change, especially the key stakeholders'.

When gathering data about the current state of the project, don't forget to ask the current team for their opinions on what went wrong. It can be easy to ignore their input since they're associated with the current failure. In fact, each individual can provide great insight into why the project arrived in its current state. Reach out to key team members and get their suggestions for correcting the situation.

2. Prepare the Team for Recovery

Everyone involved in the project—from executive management to stakeholders to project team members—needs to accept that the current project is broken and needs to be fixed. They also need to accept that the existing project plan and approach to delivering the project is flawed and needs to be restructured. If they don't accept these facts, they will likely resist the steps needed for recovery.

Once everyone has accepted the need to change course, define realistic expectations for what can be delivered given the current state and timeframe. Also establish metrics for success and control of the recovery. If you had metrics at the outset of the project, you may need to establish new ones, or you may simply need to hold yourself and others accountable to them.

Both management and the project manager in charge of the recovery need to develop a supportive environment for team members. Giving them realistic goals and providing them with the needed space, equipment and training will position them for success.

Finally, it's important to take advantage of the new momentum associated with the recovery and to involve all the key parties in the status of the project. This involvement will keep the everyone focused and engaged. It will assure project team members and stakeholders that they're needed for more than just executing tasks.

3. Develop a Game Plan for Recovery

Think of the recovery as a new project, separate from the old one. This new project requires its own scope of work to make the expectations around what is being delivered and the new criteria for judging success crystal clear. The new scope may require you to determine if you have the right resources on the project team or if you need to re-staff some of the team members.


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