There are lots of resources and methodologies like PRINCE2 ready to help you to get things right, but what about some advice on what to do when things don’t go as planned? Project management is often highly situational, and not always formulaic. A good Project Manger needs to quickly figure out what is wrong, determine the root causes, prioritise, and take action.
What to do if a Project is in trouble?
You know your Project Management Theory, you have experience, you have:
- Set your goals and created timelines for your project.
- Leveraged your stakeholder buy-in.
- Developed a detailed budget that accounts for every penny.
What could possibly go wrong?
Anything and everything! Even the best planned projects can and probably will encounter problems
Every Project Manager will at some time be managing a project that seems to be going horribly wrong. Sometimes no matter whom you talk to or what you try, nothing seems to work to turn a project around. Maybe things are happening that are out of your control causing delays, maybe costs are escalating, maybe there is low morale among team members.
Should you forge ahead or should you abort the project? These are difficult decisions to make.
Positive things that you CAN do:
- Take a deep breath and try to detach emotionally form the project.
- Go back to your PM roots and try to take logical and achievable steps.
- Make sure all of your documentation is in order and that all stakeholders, management and team members have this information available.
- Make sure you have an approved escalation mechanism to pull the leaders into the meetings when things are going wrong.
- Ensure your stakeholders, especially the risk owners attend the status meetings, be transparent.
- Spend time with your team and get everyone to focused on hitting deliverables, try to appear positive, if you decide to keep the project going it is important that they believe it is possible.
- Discuss the project with your team members as if it is their project, get them communicating about it – get people to take ownership and involve them as much as possible
- Spend time with project sponsors and decision makers and be honest – discuss possible solutions, what’s happening, if it is relevant or viable to get the project back on track, and make a decision
Be honest about a project’s reason for being. What business objectives or strategy does it serve or support? If the project team are unable to answer this question then it is time to go back to the sponsors to clarify the answer to these fundamental questions. You need to determine whether or not there is a solid underlying business rationale for a project, and if there is not then the decision to kill a project maybe a more successful outcome than the decision to carry on. It’s hard to let go of something you have invested greatly in, however be objective and consider the benefits of effort and money saved. Team members and Project Mangers will be freed up to work on to more relevant and successful initiatives.
The more expertise you have, the more projects you handle, the more you will be able to identify what works and what doesn’t. The trick is to do more of what works! Learn as much as you can about Project Management methods, tools, and processes as you can but remember that the decision of what to do in a given situation comes down to good judgment and good decision making. If there is a good business reason to do the project, and you have the resources to get it done, you shouldn’t give up but you should look for assistance, try and get as many people as you involved to make it a success.
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- Project Management – When Projects Go Wrong
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- What to look for in a Project Manager
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