Project Management

10 Ways to Deal with a Project Gone Wrong

If there were 10 ways to spot project failure from beginning to end, what would they be? Mary Shacklett’s list for TechRepublic is a no-nonsense breakdown of perfect strategies for avoiding project mismanagement.

The Beginning

  • Communication
  • Emergency Exits

Be prepared to deliver the bad news about potential project failure – by preemptively opening channels of communication between yourself, your stakeholders, and your team members. Establish check points throughout the project that allow you and your team easy escape from a crash-and-burn scenario:

These exits should be pre-identified checkpoints you set up with your team and your stakeholders before a project is launched. They usually come in the form of evaluation points defined at times during the project's lifecycle.

The Middle

  • Disaster Detection
  • Knowing when to Quit
  • Segmenting the Budget  

A sudden change in the weather (metaphorically speaking) could mean a wicked storm is brewing. In other words, stay attuned to the warning signs of impending project disaster. When necessary, you must shed your indomitable optimism and kill the project that is already doomed. And following the idea of checkpoints, one should divide up budgetary requirements to fit with a more segmented, more piecemeal project. 

The End

  • Take the Blame
  • Project Autopsy
  • Assess and Redress
  • Plan B (or C)

If you’re in charge of a project that failed, stand tall and take the fall. Nobody wants to see finger pointing. Afterwards, don’t be squeamish. Open up the deceased project and investigate the cause of its demise. Nor should a ruined project go to waste. There are always scraps of goodness to be found and then used for future projects. Assess and take note for the future. Who was (un)cooperative? Which team members consistently butted heads/got along? Did a vendor drop the ball, or did anyone perform exceedingly above/below expectations? Finally, when things don’t go according to plan, it pays to have another trick up your sleeve. Use contingencies to move on to the next (hopefully successful) project.

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