Rescue a Failing Project? Smart Pointers for Attaining a Turnaround

Have you been called in to take a project out of its state of crisis? Persistence, smart client communication, and 100% passion will make you emerge as a true leader and put the project back on track.

With delivery schedules in doldrums and budgets spiraling skywards, a project is on the verge of being stashed by the management. The team morale is down in dumps with the existing project manager been given the pink slip; communication channels can be best defined as being poor; the senior management is seeing red; and sponsorships have become a thing of the past. Overall, the project is facing serious trouble with everything going the wrong way. This is exactly where you have been handed the failing project with the expectation of turning it around as soon as possible. What do you do?

Here’s our take on how you can manage to rein in the failures that are making the project go amuck.

Why do Projects Face Problems?

Before you go ahead, do know why projects often fall into trouble. A clear concept of the reasons behind their failure will enable you to chalk the right way forward.

  • The project scope and requirements are not defined clearly.

  • Project sponsors have failed to live up to their commitments, or there are insufficient commitments.

  • Team members do not have the right levels of experience for handling the projects.

  • Improper, ineffective planning and implantation of formally drawn project processes is commonplace.

  • There is poor role definition of project managers and team members.

  • Ineffective communication channels that cause misconceptions, confusions, etc. are making things worse.

Steps for Taking over a Failing Project and Turning it Around

Are you aware of the reason why you have been chosen to lead the failing project? In all probability, you have piloted such a project before, and thus have the requisite knowledge and skills that are necessary for rescuing the project. Before committing successful recovery, it is essential that you make practical and achievable goals, set the right stakeholder expectations, and start familiarizing yourself with the nuances and critical areas of the project.

  1. Procure all project documentation like plans, charters, scope, specifications, etc. and go through them in depth. Alongside, call for meetings/conference calls with individual team members and key stake holders to understand the factors that are making the project go out of control, discuss the ways of making things move in the right direction, and seek all kinds of expected help.

  2. Call for formal meetings with the core team linked with the project. Try to gain more information about the role and performance of each team member, introduce yourself and your ideas without mincing words, and go through the project scope in details. Here, it is important to compare the initial and existing scope of work and why things have undergone changes midway. You may like to discuss schedule issues, budget overruns, existing state of deliverables, and new estimations to gain a deeper insight into the proceedings.

  3.  The above-mentioned meetings should be used as a platform for identifying the root causes and challenges that have created problems for the project. Create a damage assessment report after gaining enough knowledge about the points mentioned above.

  4. Assess the project scenario and call for a damage assessment meeting to report these findings to the senior management and other key stakeholders.

  5. Next, outline new project plans with well-defined scope, realistic objectives and long term goals. Proper strategies pertaining to the planning processes will aid the identification of obvious issues and chalk out the path for different project phases. It’s essential to create an all new planning document with necessary inclusions like an executive summary, objectives, project charter, project risks and assumptions, deliverables, project scope, work breakdown structure, project organization, network diagrams, resources, project directory, etc. in line with the complexity and size of your project.

  6. The creation of a new planning document is a time consuming and cumbersome process, especially if you are handling a large-sized complex project. Do go about this project recovery stage carefully and with good time on hand.

  7. Once you have the new project plans in place, you need to get them validated by all key stakeholders before you start managing things your way. Incorporate more stringent monitoring and reporting methods to identify and correct all errors in their initial stages.

  8. Conduct regular status meetings for keeping all team members updated with the project progress. Try developing a rapport with individual members by sharing the project progress lucidly and in a transparent way. Discuss all ensuing risks and challenges as they arise and try to use the perspectives of team members to sort them one by one. Positive and clear communication channels are a must at all stages of the project.

  9. Persistence pays when you are trying to turn around a failed project. For instance, you may like to get regular project updates via weekly status meetings. The act will help you achieve client and team accountability alike. Also, reminders sent via emails, phone and other modes will encourage timely delivery and induce all members to give their best.

  10. Lastly, keep exuding passion and leading by example. By leading from the front, you will always be in control of the situation and will not find it difficult to handle day-to-day problems as they keep coming to the fore. Soon, you will see all others emulating you and working hard to bring the project to fruitful completion.


About Author
Uma Daga