Project Failure: How To Rescue It

project failureProject failure rates top 70% in some organizations. Why is that? Here is the project management process in theory. First the project manager and sponsor define the scope 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

We all know how projects should be initiated but they often aren’t done the right way. As a result, you, the project manager, must try to rescue these failing projects. In one situation, perhaps someone else did the planning and you are assigned to take over the execution phase. In another situation, perhaps the project is headed for disaster and you have been asked to save it. I hope that this post will help you successfully manage whatever project situation you’re given. 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 define the scope. If you can’t “uncover” a solid scope statement, it is never to late to write one.  Without a solid scope, you will have a hard time finishing what someone else started. I found it’s very useful to clearly state what is and what is not in the project’s 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. The stakeholders are the people who are affected by the project and have an interest in its success.

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 and discuss the current status. This is also a good time to go over the project plan with the team. Once you know the scope, it is easier to spot weaknesses in the plan. It’s best if you go over the plan with the project 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 listen to what the team, the stakeholders and the sponsor 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, everything else will fall into place.

You can learn how to correctly manage the entire project process in our online project management courses. You’ll work privately with an expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.

Get free articles and videos like this every week

Author: Dick Billows, PMP

Dick has more than 25 years of project and program management experience throughout the US and overseas. Dick was a partner in the 4th largest professional firm and a VP in a Fortune 200 company. He trained and developed 100's of project managers using his methodology. Dick is the author of 14 books, over 300 articles and director/producer of 60 short project management videos. He and a team of 25 project managers work with client companies & students across the US and in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They have assisted over 300 organizations in improving their project performance. Books by Dick Billows are on

One thought on “Project Failure: How To Rescue It”

Comments are closed.