Lessons from Project Recoveries

Table of contents:

To really understand what is important for controlling a project, let's review what occurs during a typical project recovery. For clarification, a project recovery is an attempt to turn around a troubled project. If there is ever a case where project control is absolutely critical, it is when you are trying to heal a sick project.

The first thing that senior management will do to recover a project is to make sure there is an effective project manager in charge. This may mean anything from validating the current project manager, bringing in someone new, pulling someone up from the project team, or providing a mentor to the current project leadership. After the project leadership is solidified, most recovery missions will involve the following activities:

  • Review planning principles The planning principles are revisited. A focus is placed on establishing priorities and objectives, clarifying acceptance criteria, gaining consensus, and reviewing roles and responsibilities.
  • Reset baseline As a final step in the re-planning step, key milestones are set and new baselines are set for cost and schedule performance.
  • Frequent status checks To facilitate better communications, prevent additional obstacles, reinforce the visibility of the recovery mission, and emphasize individual accountability, team status meetings are conducted daily. In some situations, these checkpoints are even more frequent. It depends on the nature of the project.
  • Aggressive issue resolution One purpose of the frequent status checks is to gain visibility of any new or potential issue. The resolution of any new issue is aggressively pursued. These become top priorities for project leadership.
  • Ensure clarity Another technique normally employed in successful project recoveries is an extra effort to ensure clear understanding of all communications, expectations, and work assignments. When focus and efficiency is of paramount importance, the criticality of clear communications and mutual understanding is obvious.
  • Increase visibility and accountability This has been referenced indirectly already, but it is worth emphasizing again. A major reason that project recoveries often work is because people know they are more accountable for their efforts due to the increased visibility with senior management. For both the individual and the organization, the recovery mission helps to prioritize efforts and align resource allocations.

The Absolute Minimum

At this point, you should have a solid understanding of the following:

  • The principles of project control are prevention, detection, and action.
  • Project control consists of the information systems and the management procedures that allow us to answer the key questions regarding project performance.
  • Key components of project control include performance reporting, change control management, configuration management, issue management, risk management, quality management, procurement management, and requirements management.
  • The key management fundamentals of project control include focus on priorities, scale to project needs and organizational culture, set up natural control processes, expect project changes, be consistent, and pay particular attention to early project performance.
  • Powerful project control techniques include using small work packages, managing to project baselines, conducting regular and effective status meetings, establishing clear completion criteria for each deliverable (and the project), conducting proper reviews, tracking requirements, and getting formal signoffs.
  • Performance reporting should communicate status in regard to critical success factors, any variances, and any changes to the performance forecast.
  • The possible responses to an identified variance include taking corrective action, accepting it, resetting the performance baselines, and canceling the project.
  • Earned Value Management (EVM) is the best project control technique for early detection of project performance variances.

The map in Figure 10.4 summarizes the main points we reviewed in this chapter.

Figure 10.4. Overview of controlling a project.

Part i. Project Management Jumpstart

Project Management Overview

The Project Manager

Essential Elements for any Successful Project

Part ii. Project Planning

Defining a Project

Planning a Project

Developing the Work Breakdown Structure

Estimating the Work

Developing the Project Schedule

Determining the Project Budget

Part iii. Project Control

Controlling a Project

Managing Project Changes

Managing Project Deliverables

Managing Project Issues

Managing Project Risks

Managing Project Quality

Part iv. Project Execution

Leading a Project

Managing Project Communications

Managing Expectations

Keys to Better Project Team Performance

Managing Differences

Managing Vendors

Ending a Project

Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
ISBN: 078973821X
Year: 2006
Pages: 169

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