Project ManagementRisk Management

Restore Trust to Turn Around a Languishing Project

Every once in a while, something will go so wrong that you might think to yourself, “Boy, how didn’t I see this coming?” And when that something happens to be your project, the feeling is even worse. In a post for Project Management Tips, Elizabeth Harrin shares a story from project manager Simon Murison about a project gone wrong and what was done to right it.

Talk It Out

A project in the retail sector entailed a client that wanted to understand its energy consumption. The business handling the project had little knowledge of energy management and was thus dependent on the client for learning. Unfortunately, the client stakeholders were often hostile during interactions, and they also did not have a clear picture of what they wanted.

On top of these issues, they had somehow agreed upon a fixed-price contract in spite of all the unknowns at play. The project was just a mess from all sides. It was at this point that Simon came on board to take control of the project, and he decided that he had to restore trust in the project with his client. The alternative would be damage to the business by way of how this project would affect other client projects:

[Simon and his senior management] communicated that the project was running at a significant loss for the service provider, and that this was unsustainable. Once that understanding was reached, the client was more open to change and they were able to renegotiate the contact terms – a Time and Materials based pricing was adopted and the project operated more profitably going forward.

The effect of this was a better relationship, improved trust with the client, a more profitable project and a project team that was under considerably less pressure. The decisions made to turn around a trouble-some project proved effective. Through an open dialogue with client representatives, they could negotiate a way forward that worked for all parties.

So here are a few tips to remember, if you would like to avoid ever getting stuck in such a bad situation yourself:

  1. Conduct risk analysis and have a risk margin on contracts.
  2. Document all assumptions.
  3. Use an agile approach if development requires specialized expertise.
  4. A real partnership demands trust.

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