Project Failure: How To Rescue It

project failureWe all know how projects should be initiated so why is there so much project failure? Here is the project management process in theory. First there is a thorough planning process where the scope is laid out in crystal clear terms that everyone understands.  Then the project manager and team  “just” execute the scope. What can go wrong? Lots! So much for the theory. Enterprise Project Management Main Page

In reality, project failure rates are high. They top 70% in some organizations. Projects often do not get initiated the right way and project managers must try to rescue a failing project. Maybe someone else did the planning and you are assigned to take over the execution phase. Or someone else didn’t get the project done right and you have been asked to fix it. In any case, I hope that this post will get you on your way to successfully manage whatever someone throws at you. Project Failure

Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #1

When you take over a  project failure in process, your first and most important task is to understand the project’s scope. If you don’t know where the ship should go, you won’t be able to steer it. Also, if you don’t understand the scope, chances are you are not alone.  The project team, stakeholders and even the project sponsor may not be able to tell you what the scope is. If you can’t uncover a solid scope statement, it is never to late to compile one.  Without a solid scope, you will have a hard time finishing what someone else started. I found it’s very useful to actually draw a picture that shows what is and what is not in the scope. Make sure that at least you and the sponsor are crystal clear about what the project has to deliver. Project Rescue

Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #2

Next, you should try to locate the project charter and the stakeholder register. The project charter should tell you why you do what you do and what your boundaries are as a project manager. This is a very important document because you will have to maneuver the project around many obstacles. So you must know what the boundaries are. The stakeholder register is important because it lets you get in touch with the people who are most important to the project.

Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #3

Third, introduce yourself to the major stakeholders and the project team. Make sure all of you have the same understanding of the project scope. Get the project team together for an update on the current status. This is also a good time to go over the project plan with the team. You might wonder why you should go over the project plan so late in the game. Once you know the scope, it will be easier to spot weaknesses in the plan. It’s best if you go over the plan with the team.

Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #4

Last but not least, if you and the team identify a major weakness, you should address it. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel, but you should too the team, the stakeholders and the sponsor what want to do differently. Project Catastrophes

Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Summary

Here is the bottom line: don’t shy away from accepting the challenge of rescuing a project failure. I urge you to start with the scope. Your job as the project manager is to keep the big picture in mind. If you have to turn a project around, you will find that most often the project failed because of scope creep or other scope related issues. If you tackle the scope first, all other things will fall into place.

 

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