Four Easy Steps to Recover a Red Project
The four steps to bring a project back from red. They are:
- Project Audit;
- Data Analysis;
- Solution Negotiation;
- Plan Execution.
Like any recovery, be it twelve-step or four-step, it goes nowhere without realization of the problem. Step zero is acknowledging the failure. Without this step, the problems and subsequent resolutions will not have full recognition and the project recovery will fail due to the lack of management support. With realization, the recovery process has meaning.
The project audit acquires the data to drive the rescue. This step has few if any actions taken. Improved communication comes with the fact that everyone on the project is interviewed. The most severe action is to eliminate overtime to slow the financial bleed. Changing much more means dropping the required objectivity of the auditor. Being objective and nonjudgmental is paramount to gathering unbiased data.
The second step is to analyze this information and formulate a project recovery plan. The goal of the plan is to fix the issues through root cause analysis. By correcting the root causes, the errant project becomes a normal project and management is easier. It takes more time up front and requires making tough decisions early, but results in less long–term management and increases the odds of success. Everything in the project must be address from the use of meeting minutes and methodology to scope and executive management commitment. Left to the end of the project, executives cut root cause analysis, along with the general class of retrospectives, due to lack of interest and minimizing losses.
The project recovery plan is necessarily different from the original project. Something on the project must to change, time has been lost and money spent, one or both are over budget; otherwise, the project would not be red. Stakeholders will need to approve changes that affect the deliverable. Therefore, the third step is the negotiation and approval of the solution and the new project. The entire four-step process is designed around this step. Without proper knowledge of the problem and the goal, a successful solution will be extremely difficult to arrive at.
After the negotiation is complete, the project manager implements all corrective actions and executes the plan. Addressing the root causes will make the project run like any successful project. However, a vigilant eye should be on the lookout for:
- Old problems resurfacing, especially behavioral issues;
- Overlooked root causes;
- Unfixable problems, such as when a troubled technology is the only option or management is unresponsive;
- Red project stigma tainting the team;
- Mangers overreacting to issues that projects without a red history would handle in stride.