4 Steps to Getting a Project Back on Track

by Jim Berkowitz on July 19, 2010

Here are several excerpts from an article by Ron Ponce, President of Fog City Consulting, 4 useful steps to getting a project back on track:

When you assess the current state of your projects, do you see any of these signs?

  • Critical issues keep opening up, but they’re not getting resolved.
  • Project scope is constantly changing.
  • The project is consistently behind its plan, despite efforts to get it back on schedule.
  • Competing deliverables are distracting your attention.

If all of the above signs appear, it may be time to cut your losses and cut the project–or at least radically restructure it. You know better than anyone that throwing good money after the bad will not save the project because it doesn’t address the root cause of the project’s woes.

To determine a course of action, ask yourself the following questions about the project…

  • What can be salvaged?
  • What can be delivered with the time and budget that are left?
  • Do you have the right leadership in place to complete the project successfully?
  • Is the plan for the initiative sound and realistic?
  • Am I and my management team doing everything we can to support the initiative?

If some or all of the project can be salvaged and delivered on time and with the remaining budget, if the right leaders are present to steer the project, if the new plan is solid, and management will continue to support the project, the following four steps will help you regain control and deliver the revised project successfully. These steps are basic blocking and tackling, but the detail behind the–and more importantly, the execution and focus the project team brings to the effort–will determine whether the project recovery effort will succeed.

1. Assess the Situation

The following questions address key data points you need to collect:

  • How critical is the delivery date?
  • What functionality is exactly required by the delivery date?
  • What has been completed and what is still outstanding?
  • How willing will people be to change scope, dates and budget?

2. Prepare the Team for Recovery

Everyone involved in the project–from executive management to stakeholders to project team members–needs to accept that the current project is broken and needs to be fixed. They also need to accept that the existing project plan and approach to delivering the project is flawed and needs to be restructured. If they don’t accept these facts, they will likely resist the steps needed for recovery.

3. Develop a Game Plan for Recovery

Think of the recovery as a new project, separate from the old one. This new project requires its own scope of work to make the expectations around what is being delivered and the new criteria for judging success crystal clear. The new scope may require you to determine if you have the right resources on the project team or if you need to re-staff some of the team members.  Based on the new project scope, the project manager and project team should lay out a clear and realistic road map to achieve the objectives.

4. Execute the Game Plan

With the new plan in hand, it’s time to get down to business. Remember that during execution, it is not just the project team members who are accountable. Everyone from management on down is on the hook. All facets of the project, from environment to support, need to be in synch at all times, and everyone needs to know they are accountable for the project recovery to succeed.

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