How to deal when a project goes wrong

Posted by | October 14, 2014 | Information Technology | 4 Comments

Sometimes projects go out of hand and they tend to create lot of problems. Savvy managers recognize them, step up and take necessary action, learn from the experience and help the team learn from it too. But even the best of best managers having proven track record can get things messed up. Here are few strategies that can be followed to make things better
1: Communication – For any project, it is important to set the stage for an open and cooperative communications. When we understand that a project is going to fail, having open communications channels is an absolute necessity. Delivering the news about a failing project is never easy but it’s easier if there is a good communications established.
2: No excuses – It is very common sight when a project start failing everyone runs for a cover and no one is ready to take the responsibility and explain why or how the project failed. What most of the managers do at this point is either come up with excuses or goes into denial mode. Never do that, be brave and take up the responsibility – that would definitely be appreciated. And see to it that in future failure calls are never taken lightly and have the courage to pull the plug early.
3. Learn from failures – Do a post-mortem of why the project failed. There is a human tendency to walk away from failures, resist that and insist on your colleagues do the same. Perform a complete project post-mortem so that everyone can discuss it when it is still fresh in their minds. It is equally important to create a supportive, relaxing and non-threatening environment when such a discussion is arranged. Every bad project has something good in it. As part of the post-mortem, it is a useful exercise to identify these good parts so that everyone can understand the value that the project brought in even though it failed.
4. Assessment – Managers should evaluate their own as well as others performance on the project. Although the focus should be on objective parts of the project, most managers know that politics can play a role. If a team member was uncooperative, inefficient or not a good team player – all these can affect a project to the point of failure. Hence these things should be evaluated in detail and necessary measures should be taken to prevent them in future.
5. Setting up exit points – The managers should see to it that there are appropriate exit points in the project in the event of a failure. These exits should be pre-identified checkpoints and should be clearly defined at the initial phase of the project itself so that if at any point there is a failure sign it can contained for further damage. Setting these checkpoints in the project also ensures open communications and participation in project evaluation and reduces the potential for unpleasant surprises.
6. Project phases – Developing a project and its accompanying budget in phases goes along with establishing regular project checkpoints. Every project should have a work breakdown structure (WBS) and a budget allocated to each of them, which means a project should be divided into smaller, manageable components which has a cost attached to it. This helps in better failure and cost management.
7. Alternatives – Nobody likes to discard a project feeling that there is no other alternative. It is always good to have a Plan B in place.

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