No one wants a failing project on their hands. But it happens. And the solution is a ‘Project Turnaround’. So, I will walk you through the five project turnaround steps to rescue a failing project.
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What is a ‘Failing Project’?
Before we start, let’s define what we mean by a failing project. I am going to choose a simple definition:
A failing project is one with severe slippage in schedule, budget, or quality.
The definition of severe (a weasel word) depends on your circumstances. The easiest way to think about it is to ask:
‘Do we still feel in control of the slippage, using our day-to-day monitoring and control processes?’
If you don’t, the slippage is severe, and you need to move into project turnaround mode.
Five-step Process to Turn Around a Failing Project
The five project turnaround steps we’ll be following are:
- Spot the Signs of Project Failure
The first step is to recognize you have a problem, and trigger your Project Turnaround process.
- Evaluate the Situation
Now you need to make a critical analysis of what has gone wrong, and what your options are to recover your failing project.
- Steady your Project
This is the step where you start to stabilize your project to prevent a worsening of your situation.
- Rebuild Your Project
Now it’s time to implement your full project turnaround plan, to get everything back on track.
- Maintain Your Project
The last step is to create a sustainable project, which will continue to deliver to your plan, with a minimum of drama.
Spot the Signs of Project Failure
This relies on two things:
- Effective project monitoring
- Taking responsibility, rather than hiding your eyes from, failure
As part of this, you’ll need to create a break – a pause in the project and a revitalizing period of Rest and Relaxation for your team. You need a bit of distance for objectivity and you need to be fresh to have the energy to make the changes.
Once you have this, you need to gather the facts and communicate the situation to your stakeholders.
Evaluate the Situation
With the facts available, you need to work calmly with your team to evaluate the situation:
- What is good that you need to keep?
- What stinks, that you need to replace?
- What can you fix to make work well?
- What are the controls you can assert to keep your project on track?
Give your team responsibility, and lead with confidence and optimism. A failing project will have demotivated your people, so stay positive and recognize positive contributions and every step the team takes in the right direction. Also, see failures as learning steps.
Look for quick wins that will allow you to frequently recognize and celebrate baby steps. Once you have your team fully engaged, look for ways to extend this to your stakeholders.
Finally, it’s time to undertake a thorough risk review to reassess threats to your project and your plans to address them.
Steady your Project
A steady project is about solid relationships. Work on maintaining morale, confirming and improving processes, and building confidence in the team’s capabilities: confidence from your stakeholders, yourself, and from the team themselves.
Regularly meet to review priorities, re-jig work allocations, and work through issues and problems that are arising. Gradually build up a new working process, and – if needed – a new plan.
Rebuild Your Project
Work at your plan steadily, constantly refining your processes and strengthening your team. Keep in effective contact with your stakeholders, using a communications plan to ensure you leave no one out.
Maintain Your Project
By now, your processes should work, so make start to optimize for efficiency as well as efficacy. Conduct internal checkpoints and lessons-learned reviews. And now, also invite external review.
Present this to your team as a show of confidence and a chance to take your project to a higher level of delivery still.
Recommended Videos to Help with a Failing Project
Carefully curated video recommendations for you:
- Failure and Blame: Learn to Avoid Project Failure | Video
- How to Learn from Failure | Video
- Three Kinds of Stupid: Avoid Project Failure | Video
- Avoid Project Failure: 5 Top Tips | Video
- Project FAILURE: What? Why? How? [LiveStream]
Recommended Articles to Help with a Failing Project
- Project Failure – Why it Happens
- Why Projects Fail – Five more reasons
- Failing Project: Do You Know When it’s Time to Pause Your Project?
- Project Turnaround: How to Rescue a Failing Project
What Kit does a Project Manager Need?
I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own.
Note that the links are affiliated.
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For more of our videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management.