What To Do When Your Project Is in Trouble

If you have ever found yourself at the helm of a failing or troubled project, what has your response been? Read the following multiple choice answers to see if they sound familiar:

  • Duck and run.
  • Quit the project.
  • Develop the blame strategy; you determine who is to blame, or just blame everyone.
  • Deny everything; you haven’t seen, heard, nor do you know anything.
  • Yell; you yell at everyone about everything, just to get the focus off of you.
  • Pull your hair out; there are a lot of bald project managers!
  • Go blank.
  • Ride in on your white horse and save the day; you save the project and everyone on it, get promoted and then leave anyway.
  • Other.

I’ll be honest. I’ve used some of those responses in my past. The pearls of wisdom I want to share to help you come from years of experience recovering troubled projects in a previous organization. I have studied this for quite some time, and realize it can be daunting at times. As a matter of fact, some of our responses stem from fear. Our primary responses to fear as human beings are to fight, take flight or freeze.

But I say there are other choices! I have boiled it down to three simple steps to take in the beginning to get the fear out and stabilize a project.

  • Stop. When you stop, you get grounded and centered. This will allow you to actually see and hear what’s going on in the organization. Just freeze. If the project is troubled, there’s chaos; you will probably hear blaming and yelling. If tensions are really high, it’s important for you to walk in and be the grounding force. If you are stabilized and centered then everyone else will follow your energy.
  • Look. When you look, you are actually looking to see what’s happening. What are people doing? Are some people siding with others, like sidebar? Are they working? Are they confused? Are they frozen too? What’s happening?
  • Listen. Listen to what people are saying or what are they not saying, and compare what you see with what you hear. Do they match, or are they the opposite of each other and why?

When you stop, look and listen, take these next three steps to get the project back on track:

  • Interview the Stakeholders, Team and Change Control Board (CCB). Get all the different perspectives on what’s happening because typically everyone has their own idea of why something is failing, or what the root causes of failure may be. Then, compile that information.
  • Review the Project Plan. Where are you supposed to be? The perception may be that the project is in trouble, when it may actually be on track. This often happens when expectations weren’t set properly. People may have a perception that the project is supposed to be at a certain point, when really the plan hasn’t specified, so it looks like the project is in trouble but it’s not. It’s good to see what the project plan says. Where are we supposed to be, and where are we now?
  • Devise Recovery Plan. Once you interview people on the team and have reviewed the project plan, devise the recovery plan. It more than likely will be different than any other troubled project and recovery plan you’ve had before. The recovery plan determines where to go next, how to get back on track. Look for the low-hanging fruit, and apply the 80/20 rule. What is the 20% that you can do to get the 80% gain; you want to do the fewest things to get the biggest gain. At the scene of a house fire, firemen look for the hot spot. There is a lot of smoke, but firemen don’t go on the scene to douse the smoke; if they get the hot spot out they take care of the rest. That’s what you are looking for on your troubled project, the hot spot. Then, it’s important to have the project plan up to date, available, accessible to not only yourself but your team members, stakeholders and your CCB.

Jennifer Whitt, PMP is a speaker, trainer, Certified Performance Coach, author, and company president of PDUs2Go.com. She is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and knows how difficult it can be to make time for classroom or online learning so she has developed a new way for Project Managers to Earn n’ Learn while on the go. For more information, please visit http://www.pdus2go.com

Article source: http://www.pmhut.com/what-to-do-when-your-project-is-in-trouble

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