When projects begin to fail with a trend of missing the end date, how do you respond?
As indicated in last week’s article “Project Management: Utilizing a Proactive Methodology,” the most efficient way to prevent project failure is by starting right from day one. Implementing a proactive project management (Pro-PM) methodology will build effective teams. Ultimately, the Pro-PM methodology is impactful because it mitigates risk, adequately allocates resources, and efficiently uses time.
But What if a Project is Failing?
Apply a reactive methodology to recover the project before it is canceled and labeled as a total loss. Start by confirming that a solid business case was prepared and by validating that the executive sponsor is actively involved.
Utilizing a Reactive Methodology
In this article, let’s work through the worst-case scenario for a failing project. In this scenario, the business case exists, and therefore the project has received funding. However, there is no active executive sponsor. The IT key stakeholders do not understand the value of the project. Instead, they are focused on driving the completion of the initiative based on process instead of results. The business stakeholders have not been allocated full-time to the team and are absent within the case development. Lack of business stakeholders results in a lack of ownership. The rest of the team isn’t present to fully collaborate with those who know how the company works internally and how the specific industry is evolving.
So, what now?
- Task one – work with senior leadership for the allocation of an executive sponsor.
- Task two – work with the executive sponsor to update the business case to ensure that there are defined business benefits to include specific criteria tied to requirements. There should be no gaps in business value.
- Task three – create a charter plan (all key stakeholders must sign this off) that includes a detailed schedule for conducting a rapid assessment.
- Task four – conduct a rapid assessment (see below).
- Task five – review the outcome of the assessment and identify the gaps in each project variable: work breakdown structure, risks; deliverable defects; resources; schedule; processes, and business value.
- Task six – conduct a series of collaborative workshop sessions with all key stakeholders focusing on the purpose of the project, building relationships based on active engagement, openly sharing, mutual trust, respect, and acceptance. Gather and develop feedback on the efficient, impactful delivery of the project needs to include. Specify the exact activities necessary to enable adjusting, aligning behaviors and actions to the targeted desired business value outcomes.
- Task seven – determine which solutions will create the best outcomes, such as a complete save from a potential loss or a restoration of the project back to usefulness.
- Task eight – based on the results of the previous task, determine changes needed, such as a change of people on the team, a product pivot, or modification of the overall approach. Ensure that there are the correct, best-skilled business and technical resources aligned to deliver optimal benefits.
- Task nine – recreate the project based on the determined outcomes, including the tracking and timing of the ROI benefit realization.
- Task ten – update the SOW with the identified findings, capture shareholders’ commitment and their signatures.
- Task eleven – restart the project with a kickoff meeting and drive to success.
How to Complete a Rapid Assessment
Conduct a rapid assessment within two weeks of the project restart. The assessment will provide an ideally timed response to get answers to stakeholders and determine the points for recovery.
Define and build a questionnaire that includes an interview plan and overall schedule based on the review of critical project documents.
- Create a project war room and collocate the team there. Display all results in the war room.
- Plan, schedule, and conduct a kickoff meeting. All team members must attend this event. During the presentation, focus on project history and overall progress. Also, focus on the purpose of the assessment. Introduce all stakeholders.
- Interview stakeholders by utilizing the rapid assessment questionnaire. Share the results with all team members to maintain transparency and create trust.
- Examine the performance, metrics, issues, and forecasting performance throughout the assessment results. Share findings with all team members.
- Analyze the gathered data to prepare the findings that will eventually be presented. Share results with all team members.
- Report findings to stakeholders.
Next Up – Building Project Competency
In our next post, “Project Management: Building a Project Management Competency,” we describe how to make a difference by building a center of excellence with project management as a competency. Three states of project management as a competency exist. These include a
- proactive methodology, a
- reactive methodology, and
- stakeholder buy-in.
How else can project failure be prevented? By starting with a strong foundation built from a project management competency that further fosters a culture of accountability, support, and team success.
About the Author
My professional goal is to improve the overall success rate of projects. Proactive Project Management (Pro-PM) results in successful projects by gaining stakeholder buy-in through strategic vision, effective communication, deliberate planning methodology, and building effective teams. With over 30 years of experience in the system integrations consulting industry, I have recovered failing projects for a multitude of clients ranging from manufacturing all the way to travel and hospitality. Currently, I work with Blackstone and Cullen (a local consultancy) that has a culture of “do it right, get it done.” My professional background includes working as a program manager for a big five consulting firm and as a major global system integrator.