The Bullpen
Our Project Management Blog


From Crisis to Control

30 Sep 2009 Project Recovery

It’s pretty shocking. Industry statistics indicate that as many as 50% of all projects fail. If you’re a project manager, chances are you have experienced the bitter aftermath of having a project crumble in your capable hands.

Failed projects can have some pretty dire impacts on organizations, such as:

  1. Company goals left unrealized
  2. Little or no return on that big investment of time and resources
  3. Weakened customer and stakeholder confidence
  4. Slower approval or buy-in for future projects and improvement initiatives
  5. Reduced level of trust among team members and with management

Thankfully, you can get back control when you feel the ground is shifting beneath your project. It is, however, essential to start with a 360 degree view and a clear approach.

Here are FIVE smart ways to start taking back control:

  1. Focus on the root cause to maximize impact of the recovery
  2. Clearly communicate status to stakeholders and customers to ensure alignment
  3. Avoid blame to ease analysis of issues and empower the project team
  4. Establish a clear action plan that will bring back integrity to the scope, timeline and budget
  5. Return to normal project operations ASAP and minimize disruption to your organization

Now, let’s dig deeper to examine five critical steps to take your project successfully to completion:

  1. Intervention requirement assessment
    Conduct an assessment to determine the level of intervention required. The best way is to interview project stakeholders and team member on the current status.
  2. Root cause analysis
    Once you have determined your project Is in crisis, conduct a thorough analysis of the current approach and status to isolate “symptoms” and identify those critical root causes. During this stage it is important to minimize blame. There are times when individuals may be negligent in their duties, but in most cases we find that people are generally doing their best and are hampered by systemic issues, such as unclear processes, insufficient planning, unclear roles and responsibilities… or, that people are simply too busy. In these situations, assigning blame sends a negative message to the organization and can impede your effort to determine actual cause.
  3. Corrective action recommendation
    Next, develop a recommendation for corrective action with your project team to facilitate a smooth implementation. This piece should consist of a clear description of the issues and an action plan to get the project back on track. During this stage, formal approval by the project sponsor is a critical requirement.
  4. Implement recommendation
    Implementation of the recovery plan should ensure that the:
    • Schedule is on track and achievable
    • Budget is clear and achievable
    • Communications with and confidence of your stakeholders and customers is re-established
    • Confidence and teamwork within the project team is re-established
    • Processes, roles, responsibilities and other systemic issues are clarified to enable the team to succeed.
  5. Close Recovery
    At this stage, you should be ready to return to normal project operations. Be sure your team documents the recovery steps for future use and implements any structures required to maintain control of the project, such as status meetings and reports. Also be sure to inform stakeholders that the recovery is complete. Mission accomplished.