Making a project turnaround is not a fun or easy task, but deploying a simple strategy will help the project manager rectify the situation such as:
- Deliver what was promised (scope)
- Deliver on time (schedule)
- Deliver within the budget
Going through the next four steps will help the project manager get there.
The first step is to identify the problem. You can't even consider trying to recover a project that is in trouble if you don't know what the problem is in the first place.
While it may seem like a fairly simple problem to diagnose, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause that put the project at risk in the first place. Maybe requirements were not well defined enough, or maybe the time frame dictated by the client was too aggressive. Perhaps he keeps asking for changes (been there?)
Interviews with the project team and a thorough analysis of the situation will help you identify the problem and move forward. But be sure to determine the root cause of the problem.
Simply putting a band-aid on symptoms will not help at this stage.
2. Interviewing with empathy
Once you have identified the problem, it is time to discuss it with stakeholders and determine the action plan to rectify the project.
It may not be an easy discussion if people you are talking to are part of the problem! It is important, however, to have a frank conversation and keep the discussion focused on the problem, not the person. This is not a finger-pointing exercise!
The project manager should have all the information at his fingertips and be able to redo the history of why the project is in trouble. This discussion should lead to a solution that will bring the project back to its objectives. In many cases, it’s good timing to organize a brainstorm session with the project team to make sure they’re part of the solution.
It’s now time to implement the solution that will correct the project.
The solution could be to change the timeline, update the project scope, or even make changes to the project team. The solution should be well documented and communicated to all stakeholders involved in the project recovery.
All stages of recovery must be carefully described and detailed. There should be no questions about what needs to be done and when it needs to happen in order to get the project back on track. Don't hesitate to "over-communicate" at this stage.
This part of the turnaround process should be well thought out and approved by management and the client. In this way, the recovery can continue without further delay.
Once the project is underway, the project manager and the timeline should communicate what is happening to get back on track.
Everything that happens in the turnaround must be part of the scope and timeline.
This is a great time to re-evaluate the entire project and determine if something needs to be updated or modified to make the project a success.
When recovering a troubled project, identify the problem, determine how to recover the situation, implement the team's solutions and review the timeline. Working sequentially on these four steps should allow you to aim for a smooth landing.
Fixing a project is never easy or fun, but with a little discipline and team mobilization, you will get there!