Brainfood: Crash Course in Project Recovery

Article excerpt

The project from heaven has turned into the development programme from hell.

Nobody has said anything yet, but milestones are about to be missed, you're over-budget and now people aren't turning up for meetings.

How to get back on track?

Admit you're in trouble. As with alcoholics, the first step is to acknowledge you have a problem. Look for early warning signs, says Nuala MacDermott, a rescue specialist at PA Consulting. 'These include stakeholders who are not engaged, lack of clarity, things that haven't happened.'

Don't look back. Concentrate on plotting the direction forward, not a lengthy postmortem. 'Quite often, the thing that caused you to be late or over-budget has already happened,' says Tom Taylor of the Association for Project Management. 'It's more important to stop failing and stabilise.'

Call in consultants. Some consultancies have specialist project recovery teams who have long experience. But as MacDermott points out: 'It is much more expensive when things go wrong than calling us in when you are designing the project at the beginning.'

Don't point the finger. Laying blame won't help you recover. 'People will give you warning of further problems only if there is a no-blame culture,' says Martin Barnes of the Major Projects Association.

Consider cancellation. This may be the best option if your project is not going to deliver the functionality promised, will cost more than the forecast return on investment, or will finish too late to meet a market opportunity. …