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.
Companies are faced with a need to constantly be evolving and improving in order to effectively respond to the market. This pressure to evolve usually results in a long list of projects the company wants to complete in order to stay competitive, improve profitability, or respond to regulations. When I joined the board of the PMI Mile Hi Chapter, there was a list of 20 great projects we needed to undertake in order to improve the value we were delivering to our customers and ensure we were staying relevant. The team tried to take on all 20 projects. At the end of the year, how many were delivered? None. Companies must reduce the number of in process projects. Do less to do more. Too many projects result in:
When I once joined a project as a recovery consultant, the organization had already spent $10 million on a Salesforce implementation. Despite the amount of money invested, nothing was yet in production. It was one of the top three initiatives in the company. One of the first things I do during a project rescue is to understand the project org chart. As the team was walking me through it, they mentioned that we were to meet weekly with the sponsors. Sponsors? As in more than one? On this project, there were three, each from a different department.
Being a team-building enthusiast and agile blabber-mouth allows me to participate from everything from executive meetings to dev. team ping pong tournaments and believe me when I say, I’ve had more fun in meetings than I have playing ping pong. I’ve been in meetings where everyone feeds off one another and we’re able to build, optimize, or plan something amazing. I’ve been in meetings I’ve looked forwards to and left feeling refreshed to go do more! Why won’t I forget those meetings? Because those teams were high-performing, self-organizing, powerhouses with leaders that gave them direction and guardrails. Some of the most engaging leaders and most amazing teams I’ve ever worked with were waterfall folks through and through. Continue reading
When I hear teams are “doing scrum” or that an organization has “adopted agile” I like to dig deeper and understand the practices that are most impactful in delivering value. Over the years, different teams, leaders, and even coaches have interpreted and implemented dozens of methods to increase agility. This open interpretation aspect of the Agile Manifesto and Scrum Guide are intentional to allow space for each team or organization to adapt their processes and consequently skips over providing traditional structured guardrails.
….Or does it?
Dolphins can have conversations underwater, bats can see with sound, and birds breathe through hollow bones to fly. What if humans could do those things? Would it be worth evolving as a species to talk underwater or fly?
Would it be in our best interest to transform in ways suited for marine or avian life or is it better to simply evolve our existing strengths? If we take Darwin at his word, every species should evolve based on its environment, needs, and challenges, in order to thrive – not the needs, environment, and challenges of other species.
The project was struggling – over budget and behind schedule. It was a critical subproject of a larger program and delivery was critical. Senior leadership decided it was time to change the project manager, and I was brought in to lead a turnaround effort. As I was digging into the details of the project, I came to the conclusion that my predecessor wasn’t a bad project manager (thankfully he was just transferred and not let go). The project needed a different leader with a different style and set of skills. If you have projects in your portfolio that are struggling or the team is burnt out, here are some reasons it may be good to change the project manager: Continue reading