Strategies for turning around a troubled project

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Executive Summary

This compact set of articles will give you an overview of how to determine whether a project needs help and how to implement the most effective rescue efforts.

Handling a troubled project is a multi-tiered process. First, you must validate that the project is genuinely a disaster in the making and isn't just hitting a few snags here and there. The key is to define tolerance levels so that you can determine whether projects are exceeding those levels and headed for failure. If the problems are really dire, you can begin the recovery phase?a project in itself. This will involve:

  • Determining the current state of the troubled project.
  • Assessing the causes of the problems.
  • Validating the scope of work remaining.
  • Making recommendations on how to rescue the troubled project by addressing the causes of the original problem.
  • Validating the cost, effort, and duration to complete the project under its original or revised scope.
  • Gaining sponsor approval to proceed.
Effecting any successful recovery hinges on figuring out the root causes. Stakeholders may not provide the most objective information, so you'll need to perform root-cause analysis to sort out the real reasons things are going awry. And because a variety of possible solutions exist for getting the project back on track, you need to evaluate your rescue alternatives. Should you kill the project? Just let it go on as before? Or execute a combination of measures designed to pull it out of the fire, such as reducing scope or adding resources? These four articles by project management expert Tom Mochal touch on each of these key issues in dealing with a project that seems destined for failure.

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