‘Is there any way to ‘right’ a ‘wrong’ project?’ That’s a question often asked by project management students and professionals alike. Many people have had experience of managing a project that seems doomed to fail from the outset. Perhaps the budget is inaccurate, or the deliverables are not possible within the allowed schedule. Many common project management issues stem from poor planning, and it can appear the project can’t easily be rectified, particularly if the contract stipulates the deliverables, schedule, and budget.
The good news is there are ways to right a wrong project.
9 Steps to make a project right again
Refocus the Scope:
Begin by going back to the defining documents, including your Charter, Statement of Work, and approved Change Requests. Revisit what it was you committed to accomplishing. Conversely, document what has been unofficially added to the project. You are trying to obtain a clear understanding of the commitments and the expectations of others.
Tell the truth, early and often:
There is no easy way to tell someone you can’t deliver on what you’ve promised but delaying or avoiding this truth will only serve to make the situation worse.
Effective Stakeholder Management:
From the outset, you’ll need to manage stakeholder expectations (both internally and externally) and ensure you keep the lines of communication with your stakeholders open and honest. It is vital that there are no more surprises for any of your stakeholders. There’s a case to be made for ‘under promising and over delivering.’
Quality Audit Overlay:
Quality Auditing is a critical component of your recovery strategy. Your audit will cover:
- Inputs – Quality Management Plan, Process Improvement Plan, Quality Metrics, Quality Control Measurements, Project Documents
- Tools and Techniques – Quality Management control tools, Continuous quality audits, Process analysis
- Outputs – Change Requests, Project Management Plan updates, Organisational process assets updates
Your audit will expose everywhere the original plan had missing successors or a predecessor, find negative leads and cut lags to a minimum. All tasks will have corrected Finish to Start relationships, and hard constraints checked and verified. High float checks and Negative float checks will be noted and adjusted appropriately, and High Duration tasks will be identified and handled. Additionally, your audit will show up Invalid Dates. It will not only identify where you do not have resources assigned to the task schedule but will also show you where you need to align late tasks to the baseline schedule. The integrity of the schedule will be assessed and will determine if the forecasted finish date is realistic.
Engage the entire team:
Every employee brings a diversity of experience, strengths, weaknesses, and points of view to the work environment and project. Tap into this invaluable resource. Communicate often. Meet regularly with short, sharp, and to-the-point meetings to harvest the wealth of this resource.
Make innovation a function of a well engaged and diverse team that is committed to the continuous improvement of every aspect of their role, and the tasks they manage. Regular meetings can capture these innovations and potentially maximise your recovery strategy.
Understand your funding:
You’ll need to ensure your funding is enough to cover the work, particularly if you know you’ll need to over-budget to deliver on your contractual obligations. A Quality Audit will expose the reality of your funding and support keeping as close to the budget as possible by showing where you can tighten specific areas to produce maximum benefits.
A vital cost-saving measure and a simple but highly effective challenge for every team member to achieve.
When you’re looking to economise on your materials, ensure they are fit for purpose. If you’re making selections based purely on cost, you’ll likely experience more significant cost blowouts down the track if they aren’t fit for purpose and need to be replaced.
Every one of these corrections can produce the compounding effect of many small increases in efficiency and effectiveness. An effective quality audit and an engaged team should be your most valuable resources in preventing a ‘wrong project’ from happening.
Having a qualification in Project Management (BSB50820) or Quality Auditing (BSB51615) would be beneficial in this scenario.
When righting a wrong project, it is essential that issues are understood and managed, and of course, addressed as early as possible. Careful project management planning and excellent communication across the life of the project can help to turn an awkward start into a strong finish.