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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.

Based on the new project scope, the project manager and project team should lay out a clear and realistic road map to achieve the objectives. The main difference in the plan this time is that it must not fail. It will also be under much greater scrutiny by management. Consequently, it will be critical to make sure there are milestones that are shorter in duration to demonstrate success and to allow for course correction if needed. The shorter milestones will provide valuable data points to determine the health of the project early on.

4. Execute the Game Plan

With the new plan in hand, it's time to get down to business. Remember that during execution, it is not just the project team members who are accountable. Everyone from management on down is on the hook. All facets of the project, from environment to support, need to be in synch at all times, and everyone needs to know they are accountable for the project recovery to succeed.

To make sure everyone is on the same page during the recovery, the project communication needs to be clear, informative and frequent. Clearly define in your communication plan how information will be disseminated, how urgent items will be addressed, and how key decisions will be made.

Given the added level of scrutiny on the plan and the project, being able to provide the latest on the metrics to show the improved control over the project will be key. The data will also allow you to quickly make corrections when any sign of trouble surfaces.

Getting a flailing project back on track is not easy. It requires sustained effort, focus, commitment and objectivity. During the project recovery there is no time for personal agendas. The ability to see and do what is best for the project is required from every team member.

It is also important to not lose sight of the pressure that everyone is under. Make sure there is a positive focus on people. The team needs to have the ability to bond, release a little steam, and be heads down focused on the task at hand.

When the project has been successfully delivered, celebrate and recognize the effort of each and every team member. Finally, learn from this successful project recovery so that you and your organization can avoid having to recover a project again. Pay attention to the warning signs and act swiftly and decisively in order to make corrections early in the project's life cycle so that successful delivery is ensured the first time around.


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