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?
My recommendation is to start with an accurate status of where everything is. Get your team leaders to list the following:
1) Where they are in their current project tasks.
2) Current number of outstanding-known defects in the project
3) Current testing status and test coverage on the project
4) Current resource level (how many people working and are they fully devoted to project - i.e how many hours are they actually on this project)
Then outline your desired Success and Quality Level for the project. What kind of test and quality levels are you defining as your acceptance criteria -- and release dates.
Once you understand where you currently are and where you actually want to be (at a certain time) - you can start creating your Recovery Protocol map. You WILL hit speed bumps. The best method is to be prepared and expect them.
For instance - what are you going to "let go" first when you run into trouble:
A) Are you going to add staff first?
B) Are you going to reduce the scope of the project first?
C) Are you going to add time to the release date or schedule?
D) Are you going to reduce the quality of the project?
Then repeat - with the understanding of what will be "let go" second and so forth. Adding the Recovery Protocol map to your Risk Assessment process at the start of your project is like having your Fire Escape plan.
If you need help getting these things in order, please contact me. I will be happy to help.
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.
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.
Your displeasure does not matter as far as the factual state of the project is concerned.
What matters is the Charter and Plan document stating what was agreed with the client and against that agreement where actually the project stands at the moment in terms of time,direction and cost.
You need to review this immediately with the person who was made responsible of keeping the track and ensuring the milestones are met.
If you are not comfortable after reviewing all these details than you need to ask for an update in the documentation like where the project stands at the moment and where it is expected to go. A new AS IS and TO BE document agreed with the client .
After getting that document than you should take drastic decisions of changing the people in the team or the project leader or may be after getting the new output you will find out the deviation from the expectation is not much.
So , in my opinion you have to see the ground reality in detail and then identify the problem for a feasible solution.
Best Of Luck,
Your 'big game' project falling apart and your displeasure with the event are the only specifics you have mentioned. However, even with your not revealing enough to comment, saying nothing sends a message: Sounds like you're in trouble. This precedes the obvious need for discovery. If you can say more about the kind of project, if you actually have a PID, a project plan and a mission statement, then perhaps more advice and suggestion can be offered you. You start at DISCOVERY. Answer what, when, how and how much. Bring it back here and let's see what we can do collaboratively.
With so little information it really is hard to suggest a lot, but my first thought is that it sounds like the requirements and expectations for the project were not well formulated at the start, and/or the manager did not gain alignment / agreement of the full scope from all stakeholders (incl yourself). Without that, you will never get a sufficient plan to execute and meet everyone's expectations. I'd review that and then review what changes in scope occurred since the start. You either need to get everyone back on board with the original plans, (with or without changes included, depending on the need for those things. OR you need to re-establish new goals and gain alignment to go from there. It could mean the client needs to be willing to pay more, if their needs have changed.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
What kind of project is it? Is someone clearly in charge and empowered to lead the project? Do others stay out of the way and allow the project "breathing room"?
Sounds like the project outcome isn't sufficiently nailed down if client expectations are an issue. Most other project 'issues' usually stem from that; approach, communications, leadership, management, governance, execution etc. Can't run anything effectively with an unclear mission. I'd start there and work it back.
Dear Chris, it appears that you are the person who has influence in changing the course of the project - and that brings us to the early stages of the project: did you play less attention when it was in its formative days? Were you given wrong inputs on the project progress? Did you delegate too much? Were you too lenient when the progress reports missed arriving on your desk on time?
For now, I think you should sit with the Project plan and compare your project status against it. Then you'll need a corrective plan in place to counter and reform the project. This is a plan which you have to stick to like an industrial class glue. Frankly, your details are very generic hence specific action plan is difficult to outline here, but I trust that you will get a clear POA once you have taken the measurements. We could discuss in detail offline if you want.
Hi Chris, Is this project related to your aviation business? I encourage you to take a look at our site and connect with me on Linkedin so you can review recommendations received from National clients you will recognize --> linkedin.com/in/danjulien and see exactly what we do to help situations like yours.
I would like to talk with you, get more details, and see how we can help your project get back on track. Thanks, looking forward to speaking with you!
Project Management, Construction Management, Owner Representation
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.
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.
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.
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
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.