You may be asked at some point to take over a failing project. When joining a failing project, you will have to assess the people, processes, and tools. Today, I want to focus on processes.
When I join a failing project, the first thing I want to understand is whether the scope is clear? I look at the documented scope, but I also take time to understand what people believe the scope is. I frequently find there is a mismatch between what is expected and what is documented. At that point, we take the time to align on scope, clearly defining what is in scope as well as out of scope for the project.
The next thing I do is examine the handoffs within a project. Using a software project as an example, I examine the handoffs between the business and IT. Are the business requirements clear and well-defined so that the development teams understand what they are developing? Is the handoff back from the development team to the business clearly defined? Does the business know what functionality they are getting and when they are getting it? When looking at a project, examine how the work is supposed to flow through the project phases and if there are processes in place to guide that work.
Finally, I make sure the processes are repeatable. One project I took over had a broken process when development was done, and the functionality was ready to go live. The business didn’t know what work was moving into production. Therefore, they were always reacting to live functionality, having to quickly train people, push out communication, and adjust their business processes. This reactionary mode was stressful and caused issues with software adoption. So we put in regular business readiness meetings so we could examine what was coming down the development pipeline and build a business readiness plan for each piece of functionality that was going live.
Building consistent routines can help prevent deviations from sneaking up on you and becoming issues. Building routines around reviewing timelines, budgets, risks, and issues is critical. This is basic PM 101. For example, if you are only reviewing the budget monthly, you might find yourself with a material variance from when you checked one month until the next.
Strong processes can help turnaround a failing project. If you find yourself taking over a failing project, take the time to examine what processes exist, determine if any are broken or if there are gaps in them, and build in the processes that will make the project successful.
Jana Axline is Chief Project Officer at Project Genetics and the author of Becoming You. Through her leadership musings, she inspires audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Project Genetics.