My company is in the middle of a very important project that is falling apart. How do I get things back on track?
Currently, my business in the middle of a very important project, our first 'big game' project, that is simply not going well. I'm displeased with management of the project, execution by employees, and expectations by the client. Where do I even start?
Call a meeting of all involved in the project and get the status of the actions. Also it helps to remind the project team of the project's importance and their on going action items to get the project complete. Weekly reviews should be held with the project team and monthly with stakeholders.
As already stated, there are many great and useful answers. I would however add to Michael Weiner advice. I would have three meetings. The very first being with the client (only if needed), to clarify your own understanding of the project. Second, with the personnel involved making sure they understand each of their important roles.
If there is a question as to who fits an area or not on the project deal with it ASAP. Move them around or off until you get the right fits.
And of course the last with everyone, giving the client that sigh of relief he/she is longing for.
After this project, do a study on your Mgrs and project personnel. Find their strengths and build on them. Find their weakness and give them what's needed to help them grow in those areas. You are only as good as your weakest link.
Arnold Group, LLC
Immediately call a time-out! Prepare a list of what your concerns are. Bring together only the key persons that you trust and believe in. Engage to specifically address what if failing and prepare a solutions based plan to move forward. If you don;t have a team leader get the very best you have. Empower, mentor and move forward. Prepare frequent time outs to ensure the course is corrected. Lose the members that are either holding things back or don;t have the passion and energy to pull this off successfully.
Chris, sounds like some of planning did not work out. Sometimes bringing in a consultant changes the dynamic and can save things before business is lost. What is it that you wanted to accomplish and what exactly is going wrong?
It is not clear what is your role (project manager, owner, senior manager, etc, etc ) on this project. It would be very helpful to clarify this in order to get a better starting point.
If you are the business owner, then my experience is that the question "why are we doing this project?" in simple non-technical terms may not have been answered in a single statement (two lines at most).
The project owner needs to ensure that the project manager has got this very CLEARLY and been able to transfer this objective VERY CLEARLY to project team.
Someone has to cause a pause and get this question sorted out otherwise the project may drift into failure perpetually until it hits a point of no return.
Hope this helps.
Hello Chris, I know situations like that too well, many businesses have experience the same dilemma in what I refer to transitional phase ( a critical phase for any business). But the best sound advice one can provide you is that you have to step out of you and reassess what your expectations are for your audience if you will, and put yourself in the customer or client you are trying to attract? Make sense if you envision the dynamics involved in making a decision and we won't talk if it is right or wrong, because only practical application of your final decision will determine if it is right or wrong at that point make the adjustment but have to come to a consensus that will satisfy Customers. Our business if for our customers, because without them there is no business. I know I am adlib the full process of this phase, only because their is a lot involved and would take up to much space but hope you get the gist of it.
First manage client expectations while you get the project back on track. I like to MS project to really flush out the tasks and dependencies. This also allows you to assign resources to tasks and you can see where you have over allocated talent. The fix is more talent or longer days, or even sliding out the timeline to fit the available resources. You also might be able to get temp help on some of those tasks. Hope this helps.
1. First, get in your mind and your leaders to get into a solutions mindset and not play the blame game. It wastes to much time and can generate unneeded hostility.
2.Then meet with your staff. I obviously don't know the scope of the project and how many people are working on it, but include not only the managers you've chosen but also the "doers"/'connectors" the people in the trenches who get things done. The goal here is to find out exactly where all aspects of the project stand.
2a Find out from them realistic timelines to finish their components of the project.
2b Find out what problems they are encountering and brain storm solutions and no blame game stuff. Just potential solutions. Included are any person power issues where you may need to ask staff to take multiple roles.
2c. Once you go over all the components of the project with your staff, create a new game plan moving forward and make sure it has the buy-in from your staff.
2d. Tell your staff that you are going top present the new game plan to the client and that based on client needs the game plan may have to be modified, but at least internally everyone is on the same page and you can now put your hands around the project internally. You should have your own house in order before you talk to your client.
3. Have a conversation with your client.
3a Listen at first and get a good handle on the client's expectations and the reasons for their expectations.
3b As you are getting your client's point-of-view and story, you are comparing those views with your new game plan. Red flag any discrepancies or issues that don't dovetail well into your new game plan.
3c When the client finishes, Discuss the red flag issues, one by one. Probe to see if the issues are real or arbitrary. For example your client tells you that the research component needs to be completed by Jan 15th but your game plan that you went over in detail with your staff is pragmatically Feb 1. You need to find out why Jan 15th is important to him/her. Is it a date thrown out there with no purpose or is a hard date that connects with the client's business. Obviously once you know that answer you can negotiate the date to Feb 1 or if it is something that can be completed with some but not a lot of pain two weeks earlier then give the client the Jan 15 date.
Then go issue by issue and get your client's buy-in on the issues discussed and revise the game plan if needed.
Once you've gotten a new game plan together with your staff and had the conversation with the client and you have a solid working plan moving forward, you should have a monitoring plan.
As I know nothing of your plan - I'll throw these timelines out. Think about a short (30 minutes max unless there are big problems that arise) meeting with each dept head once a week; followed by a short meeting with each department letting the dept head run the meeting but you in attendance.
Make sure that you have a conversation with your client once a week or an agreed time like every two weeks, twice a week or whatever you both decide.
The key to it all is having conversations. Keeping in touch electronically is nice, it's easy and quick but something can be lost in the correspondence. Use email and other electronic media as a tool.
But there is no substitute for face to face and telephone conversations. If the project is important you your company you need to have conversations.
I agree with Michael, there may be some problem with communication. Communication at work has to be clear and straight. Except from understanding sifferent views on a project before its start, you should be in touch during all process. Sometimes it's difficult even when people work in the same building... That's why I would recommend some apps that may facilitate this, for example Kanban board that you may show to all co-workers like this: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/517491813403656762/ . I think it's quite useful solution for communicating things during process in very easy and straightforward way.
It is almost impossible to give real practical advice given the paucity of information provided; what is the project, what is going wrong, what do you think is required, etc?? Even with that there is little substitute to getting someone on the ground to assess matters and read between the lines.
That said I would a) advise the engagement of someone recognised as being skilled in project/programme rescue and b) make sure you do enough work to find out WHY it is going wrong and not just focus on what is going wrong. If you don't understand the why then any successful remedial work is likely to start eroding again.
I find that using the change formula is a pretty good diagnostic tool. If you don't know it then just google or ask.
Sometimes, a project is falling apart because we are distracted from our primary objective. The consequence is that employees don't feel there are on board anymore and the execution is affected. I suggest you could look at your objective again and check the understanding of it among your followers (people involved in the project) and give some clarification about the meaning of this project if necessary. I hope it helps.
Edith Samouillet, Turning points LLC
Like many of the questions I see on Mosaic, the simplicity and lack of characterization, context and specificity, makes any answer responsive, but not likely to achieve the goal you want? SO, in keeping with that, you have a company, but not a team. Recognizable leadership supported with clarity in communication, and emphasis on effectiveness (not efficiency) while a continuing Risk Management analysis keeps the team focused, directed, and engaged in achieving the objectives that lead to your project (and business) goals - this has been the underlying foundation I have used in 17 years of turnarounds, and if applied with a leader with demonstrable integrity provides solutions to the inevitable problems that arise.
There are a lot of good answers posted here outlining steps you could take to address specific issues with program management. I would like to take a moment to address your question, "Where do I even start?"... I would suggest you start with vision.
Any complex project requires a solid vision of what the end product is supposed to be. That concept needs to be solidly communicated throughout the organization and with the client. It sounds like the picture of the final product that you have in your head doesn't match the development effort or the client's expectations. So the first thing you need to do is figure out who has the clearest vision -what is it you are making, when is it being delivered? To do that you need to ask the client specifically, what they think they are getting (and when it is being delivered), ask management for a complete product description, and ask the employees what they think they are designing and building. -Keep an open mind, it may be your picture that is skewed...
This may sound overly simplified but it will tell you exactly where the problem is. Anyone you speak with that does not have a unified and specific vision of the final product is not receiving appropriate information -you need to fix that communication channel first. There are lots of good comments from other posts here that describe how to tackle specific communication issues once you identify them.
The client is of course your number one priority -if you find that the client's expectations are far from what is actually being executed, you need to get those expectations in line with reasonable deliverables ASAP or there won't be a second big project.
If you are well into the program and you identify extensive project management issues, I strongly agree with Richard Wheeler's comments and would consider hiring an outside consultant with appropriate credentials and an independent viewpoint. This will give you an evaluation of the entire process, ways you can recover this program, and process improvements for better performance the next time.
There is a score chapter in Fairbanks - perhaps they have a( free) mentor out your way. If not, Score has email-based mentors. Be sure to request someone with significant PM experience.
As for direct suggestions, I tend to agree with Mr. Wheeler. Although, my approach would be to first establish yourself as the "goto" person on this project with the client. Sit down with them and listen with respect to their expectations as well as issues with the project to date. Then take appropriate action.
Assuming your PM skills are not up to the task, I would utilize the aforementioned consultant as a mentor rather than interjecting him/her as the responsible party.
I took over a contract (or two :-)) during my past CEO positions. You have to go back to the start to understand:
• Goals and objectives of the project;
• Deliverables along the way;
o Were those deliverables met;
• Relationship between the PM and the client;
• Relationship between staff and client;
• Relationship between staff and PM;
• Relationship between PM and you; and
• Last time you went out to visit with the client.
Once you have a clear picture of the actual state of the project, you have to come up with a game plan to rectify the situation and fast. One example I had was a project on the verge of bankrupting a company (small contract against the size of the company). After doing my homework, I found that one, the customer had not been seen, in person, for over 6 months. The customer wanted changes, but the PM was not strong enough to negotiated and simply ignored the customer. We renegotiated the contract to include past requirements not met and future ones that needed to be added. Metrics of progress against deliverables were listed so all could see and forced the PM to be accountable to me on. Weekly meetings between myself and the PM as well as the PM and staff were convened. Monthly reviews by myself and the PM with the customer were also implemented.
Immediately the customer saw we were trying and backed off on the bankruptcy suit and within 90 days, the project was back on track with expanded deliverables, the communication improved between all shareholders and we completed the projected successfully as a referenceable contract.
Your displeasure with the management of the project implies that you are the "executive" who has entrusted it to a project manager (PM). You have not made it clear which responsibilities you have delegated. For example, did the PM select the team, or did you saddle the PM with an existing workforce? Therefore, I offer only one suggestion about fixing the project.
In your position, I would hire a consultant, ASAP, to evaluate the project planning, processes, and controls. The consultant should have a great track record along with PMP, Agile, and Lean/Six Sigma credentials. A risk management credential wouldn't hurt, either. I would want both PMP (traditional) and Agile certifications because it will probably take a combination of changes to rescue your project. Consider root causes, remember the 80/20 rule, and focus on the changes that will have the biggest benefits. Replace resources (including management), if necessary.
Since this is your first big game project, your business lacks maturity. Realize that this is how you develop tools and practices to support future big game projects. This is just as much of a learning experience, a risk, and an investment as starting the business was. You're in good company because, depending on how you define success, between 1/3 and 2/3 of all projects fail. So step back, breathe deeply, look at all the opportunities this presents, and consider whether your expectations have been realistic.
Finally, estimate the cost of cancelling the project and the cost to complete the project. (Do not cling to sunk costs.) Sometimes, the better business decision is to throw in the towel rather than to let a doomed fight cause permanent disability.
It sounds like you have a failure to communicate to each of the parties involved your exact expectations and vision for the whole project. I would gather each person together and start the meeting by asking what each person's understanding of what their role is. You need to get a 'baseline' from each to understand their points of view. Then, together, show them on a whiteboard or some other way the group can contribute to the project so it meets your stated objectives. I would do two meetings, one with your staff only, then a second one with everyone and the client, to make sure that each is aligned in the same direction. It's like the story of the three blind men standing at different parts of an elephant. Each will be able to express their particular point of view depending on which part of the elephant they are touching. What you want to do is get everyone understanding the needs of the project, and without assigning blame to anyone, let them buy-in to your vision of the project as you want it. This is also an opportunity to see if someone else has a better idea to share without fear of being shot down.
In a leadership crisis it is important for you the leader of the company to take the initiative and get the project back on track....1st start with the client what are/were their expectations and how or why does that differ now? Think about your project and your company's positioning itself outside in and understand the customer expectations..... If the customer has changed expectations go back and outline the scope of the project again, and compare it to the initial scope of the project and what the customer thinks is the project now. Differences must be discussed with your customer since your team may be confused as to the initial scope and difference in expectations now. AS far as the inside goes. if the present team is unable to meet your expectations change the team chemistry quickly and decisively----Big game projects are very hard to achieve, sometimes I compare them reeling in a Sunfish or Marlin off the Florida Keys....Got to stay with it......Make changes and fail forward fast
Hi Chris, other folks here have covered a wide span of suggestions, and it's difficult to give project-specific advice without more information, so I'll throw a wide arc at you as perhaps something for you to chew on if you find any value in it. When I've hit challenging problem-solving scenarios in my work, and find myself deep in the weeds, I've often tried to take a step back and evaluate the lay of the land on what the project priorities are in simple terms. You may recall that art of balancing the three-sided labyrinth game in project management -- 1) cost vs 2) time vs 3) quality -- to determine what your project priorities are. The fact is that unless your client is someone like Paul Allen with a limitless budget and time to achieve the utmost quality (an exaggerated example not rooted in direct experience with P.A.), you can't have all three. Taking that sort of look at a situation from 40,000 feet, and answering some of those broadly-based questions, has often helped to give me a springboard for not only navigating project management challenges, but to also address matters with a client to manage their expectations. I don't know if that's helpful, but it's something in the toolbox that's served me well over the years -- no matter what type of project it was -- it's a rule that's applicable to most anything. Good luck with this!
Richard Stern-Suggest regroup review the current plan and identify the flaws. Either personnel, or the scope of the plan.
Hit refresh and outline a new plan,
Share with staff so each member signs off on what they will be tasked to do and the time to complete their par of the project.
Post the Time and Action calendar so all can see how the Project is proceeding,
Now your company buys in and your job is to "audit the progress of the plan.