Help! My project is failing. What now?
Updated: Jul 11, 2019
If you are a project manager, or a manager in a department, you are fully aware that projects don't always go to plan. There is a lot of literature out there about WHY projects fail, such as:
Why Good Projects Fail Anyway - Harvard Business Review
The reality is that projects tend to be complex and therefore it is very difficult to match the results of a project with the expectations of the stakeholders. In addition, it is often not such as black & white as 'failure or success'. Many projects reach a great deal of the objectives that it had, but perhaps not all of them.
What now though?
If you are in the midst of a project that is not going as planned, then here are some things you can focus on to save your project:
1. Revisit your vision & align your activities
We have noticed over the years is that when projects last a long time, especially IT projects, the 'why' of the project gets lost and only the 'what' is talked about. When the project enters crisis mode, which almost all projects do at some point, leaders tend to focus even harder on the 'what'. Instead, this is a time to take a helicopter view and bring the 'why' back into the frame. Then evaluate all the things that people are 'busy' with and ensure they are all aligned with the vision.
2. Invest in people
It might seem counterintuitive to invest in people when you have a 'all hens on deck' situation. Yet when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, your people are your most important assets. Who else is going to double down and focus on getting things done, if not your people. And be honest, wouldn't you rather have motivated and content people working on your project than overworked, stressed people who are looking for other jobs or burning out?
*tip: get your HR business partner involved to brainstorm together with them what is possible in terms of investment. *tip2: we have a very effective team coaching offering!!
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Why is it that leaders and project managers alike stop communicating in times of Crisis? Is it because you only want to communicate successes and you feel that if you communicate difficulties, it reflects badly on you? Well, that is something you will have to get over because the worst thing you can do is stop communicating when things are going badly. Why? Because if you don't communicate, people will just make assumptions and it will reflect even worse on you and your team. Also, your stakeholders might be able to help you turn your project around. They also deserve to know what is going on so that they can manage expectations in their teams.
So get communicating!
And yes, I am aware that I have not mentioned anything about solving the issues that are standing in the way of success. I have assumed that you know this already. Most leaders and project managers focus solely on that. It is the vision, people and communication that they tend to forget. Give it a try and tell us what happens!