When a project is in trouble often the termination of the project seems to be the only choice. However in many cases a project restart plan can rescue can preserve the project and the investment.
First you must recognize that there is a problem. The first sign is a lack of reporting, too many red flags and not reaching milestones. This could be due to a lack of leadership or team discipline. Project managers will say they just need a little more time, but if you give it to them you will likely lose valuable time and resources and end up with little results.
Hold a meeting with the project manager, team members, end-users and all stakeholders. Lay all of the cards out on the table. Allow each side to vent and wash out all of the apathy and disbelief about the project. Explaining away issues and finger pointing will not solve the problem, but it will provide valuable information for the project audit and everyone will feel better afterwards. Communicate at the end of the meeting that a project audit will be done and a decision to terminate or restart the project will be made. Do not scold the group. Rather encourage them that a resolution will be found. They should leave the meeting feeling good about the future of the project.
Now pause the project and conduct a project audit. This will save costs and resources and allow management to review the project plan and develop a project rescue plan. If during the audit it is found that the source of the problem is a project manager with too little experience in project management or that the project is beyond their scope your first move should be to evaluate the option of replacing them or sticking with them.
During the project audit take a look at the end-user requirements. This could be the cause of a project that has gone off the track. Do they constantly shift the requirements or specifications? Are they moving up the deadline? If so meet with the end-user to see what the basis for the requirement and deadline changes are.
Too often the project is started before it is properly planned out. Such “fly by the seat of your pants” projects are doomed to delays and setbacks. If the problem with the project was poor planning or shifting requirements these should be taken up with the responsible parties.
Once you have gathered all of the information from the project audit you should have enough information to draft a restart plan for the project. Nail down the end-user on requirements and make sure they understand requirement changes will delay or possibly terminate their project. Set new milestones and new dates to put the project back on a realistic course.
When it is time to push the restart button on the project restart hold a high level meeting with the project manager, team members and stakeholders. Present the project restart plan and communicate your commitment to the project. This will help reassure everyone involved that the project has been put back on track and has the support of the leadership. Hold a project restart event to build enthusiasm and help wash away any remaining bad feelings.
Once the project has been restarted it will require more oversight than it was given in the past. Perhaps a lack of oversight was part of the problem to start with.
In summary there will be bumps in the road with all projects. However when a project consistently fails to meet milestones or throws up red flags too often it is a sign the project is in trouble. If the project is in trouble pause the project and do a project audit. Finding out all of the facts from everyone connected with the project is vital to writing a project restart plan. Once you have commitments and all of the needed information the restart plan can be written. Create new milestones and realistic deadlines. Present the restart plan to everyone connected with the project. It is important for leadership to show their commitment to the project. Once the project has been restarted more oversight will be required to make sure the project stays on course.