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.
When you have a failing project you are faced with the question of whether to perform project CPR or let it die. There are times when a project shouldn’t be resuscitated, even if it’s not failing.
I had a client that had spent $1.5 on an HCM implementation. They were faced with a product that wasn’t aligning to their needs and a software provider that wasn’t responding to the issues. As painful as a decision as it was, they decided to kill the project and go back out to market for a new solution.
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.
I worked for a VP who loved to empower us to get things done. The first time she said it to me, I felt my chest swell and I had confidence we could conquer the world, or at least execute the project. That confidence quickly vanished when I realized we weren’t really empowered. In order to advance the project, we were dependent on other parts of the organization – teams that we had no influence over. Sure, we could have conversations with these groups and attempt to gain buy in, but ultimately, it wouldn’t be enough because the challenges we were facing related back to the priorities that had been set for the entire organization. The conversations and decisions needed were way above our heads. That’s when I realize we had false empowerment. Continue reading
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
At some point you just have to let it go. You set the gears in motion and then let the outcome happen. I see a lot of people trying to control the minutia all the way until the end. They are pulling all-nighters right before a deadline, calling everyone in a panic to follow up on tasks. While tying up loose ends and validating the upcoming tasks is a value-added activity, there comes a point where it starts detracting from overall performance. Continue reading
Every year as the fourth quarter approaches, capacity planning kicks off. With the speed of business we tend to try and cram in as many projects into a year as possible. We can’t risk falling behind, so we figure out how to implement every great idea. Often we get caught in the trap of believing we can just use staff augmentation to offset the greater capacity needs extra projects create. When doing capacity planning, don’t forget these other big hitters: Continue reading
“And we could be fined for over $200 million!” The bigger picture came after the project had been in flight for a year. Setting and clarifying team priorities and the vision should be done up front, not when the project is behind schedule and the team is exhausted and wondering what the point was anymore. Why do we have such a difficulty communicating purpose and vision?
Yes, that’s right, I’m writing a leadership lesson about roadkill. As I was driving to an event last night, I was very inspired by the poor animal who died prematurely. Projects are often killed prematurely, leaving quite a mess. Needless project death could be avoided by watching for a few warning signs. Continue reading