Seven Steps to Turn Around Troubled Projects

A project is in serious trouble having overrun its budget, and deliveries are far behind schedule. If your project is in this kind of situation, do you scrap it and start over, or try to fix it?

“Here's the TenStep guest blog post "Seven Steps to Turn Around Troubled Projects":

Not all troubled projects are doomed to failure. At the same time not all troubled projects can be successfully rescued. However, you need to try. Here are some activities to see where you stand.

1. Confirm the project

The first thing to do is to find the documentation that describes the project, go to the Sponsor and confirm that it's still accurate. This includes validating the project objectives, scope, risks, stakeholders, approach, etc. If this information does not exist you need to create it pretty quickly. Otherwise your rescue project might be in the same boat as the troubled project.

2. Review and assess

Next, you need to find out what's going on today. Why is the project in trouble? Maybe they don't have a project management methodology. Is the work late? Is the project team unhappy? Are there a lot of problems? Focus this work on the past - not the future.

3. Create a plan of attack

Now you should have a good idea of the project issues and what it will take to resolve them. You can now create a plan of attack. Focus this work on the future - not the past. Identify the actions to be taken by all of the team to deliver the project successfully. Then take your plan to your Sponsor and get their support. Don't be afraid to ask for more money, time or resources. If you ask now when you are new, you are more likely to get relief.

4. Deliver some quick wins

You need to build confidence with your Sponsor and your team. Choose a couple items that you know you can solve immediately, and once solved, communicate to your team.

5. Rally the team

With your Sponsor's support, get the project team focused on the turnaround. Make sure people know the problems of the past, but also the plan to change things in the future. Tell them what you've found, what needs to be fixed and how you plan to do it. Tell them about the quick wins that have already been made, Communicate that if everyone focuses on the plan ahead, you can deliver successfully.

6. Set clear milestones

Set clear milestones that everyone understands. Put the milestones and plan of attack on a wall chart to make them visible. Then meet regularly to discuss progress.

7. Meet the revised expectations

I am not sure if there is anything worse that taking over a troubled project, creating a recovery plan, and then failing again. At this point you must meet the revised expectations and complete the project.

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