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Monday, 26 October 2009 00:00

Keep Failed Projects Running

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Stop Sign

Red project recovery is a four-step process. One must, however, determine a short-term plan for the project. It takes time to get to a resolution and it is nonsensical to continue spending money at the current rate. Other than doing nothing, there are two remaining options:

  1. Stop the project.
  2. Slow the bleeding.

The preference is the latter.


There are three primary reasons the project should continue:

  1. Properly diagnosing a system requires that it is running. Stopping the project stops the errant behavior. It is very difficult finding problems and their root cause when they are not occurring. As with a car, the engine ceases to make that odd noise when the engine is stopped.
  2. Waiting until after the acceptance of the full recovery plan to implement all the changes increases the risk because there are a larger number of changes to implement at one time. Remedial changes can take place while still auditing and analyzing. To continue the automotive analogy, change clogged air and fuel filters. This incurs minimal cost and effort, while few, if any, people will object.
  3. Implementing remedial fixes exercises the system in a new way. Applying new and tightening old processes will uncover other issues to address and often point to some of the problems' root causes. Replacing a dirty fuel filter may solve the problem, have no effect or point to old parts in the car that easily break.

After completion of the audit, revisit this decision to ensure that the degree of the problems on the project is of the magnitude originally anticipated. If they are worse, it is possible that stopping the project, or even canceling it, is a better option.

Slow Sign

Keeping the project running underscores that the first three steps of the recovery (audit, analysis and negotiation) do not necessarily occur sequentially, they may be concomitant. Put simple processes and policies in place during the analysis. Some of the obvious ones are:

  1. Improved team communication.
  2. Limit or eliminate overtime.
  3. Better change management processes.
  4. Improved risk management.

The first of these, improving communications, inadvertently starts with the audit. The unintended improvement is a result of interviewing everyone associated with the project. The downward flow of information is that management is taking this situation seriously. The big positive, however, is listening to the team and valuing their input. The value of this is immeasurable.

To reduce the impact of the analysis time, avoid assigning "gates" to these steps. Gates (requiring one step to complete prior to starting the next) will inhibit the recovery and exacerbate the financial problems. This adds unnecessary overhead to the recovery and could jeopardize its success.

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