Recovering a Failing Project

May 2018
Del Webb - Rancho Mirage Sales Office and Gate House
Far too often projects fail in the construction industry with schedule mismanagement and budget overrun blamed for the failures. However, the reality is that projects fail for much more complex reasons. As a firm providing project and cost management services, we work at the outset to set projects up for success, but often we are called in to save projects that are significantly behind schedule, beyond budget, or at the brink of abandonment. Our experience around the world, on varying project types and sizes, has made our team experts in recovering projects. Here, we look at how we recover projects through leadership, process, and communication. 

Arriving on site to start the recovery of an ailing project is a daunting task. Selecting the right leader is paramount to creating the right foundation for project recovery.

The leader must be able to come onto a project and understand the businesses goals, how the project fits into these broader goals, and establish what success looks like for the project. Often it is difficult to discern what the original intentions were because they have become so distorted once a project is off track.  The leader must be able to redefine these goals and engage stakeholders to reestablish buy-in ultimately allowing the project to continue.

The process to recover a project starts with a review of the scope, financials, schedule, and construction documents. The team must fully understand the process that has taken place, where the failures were, and how far down the wrong path the project progressed a remedial action plan is developed. The review time can vastly vary depending on project complexity, the issues found, and how organized and detailed the previous project manager was.

The recovery plan created following the review will replace the previous execution plan and will be the new basis for the project going forward. It will outline milestones and team member tasks, utilizing proven project management techniques and methodologies to manage the project.  The specific actions and approach for every recovery is specific and tailored to each project, and often tedious at the start in order for the project to get back on track.  Importantly, the milestones in the plan serve to consistently create checkpoints where the team must come together to ensure they are all aligned and moving in the right direction. These are designed to keep team members accountable while catching any areas that are veering off course early enough that it does not negatively impact the project.

When a new team arrives to recover a failing project there is always the opportunity for a negative atmosphere will develop as tensions run high. The best chance the leader and new project managers have in alleviating this is to include the remaining project team in the recovery process, building trust and engagement. Through open communication and respect, issues can be highlighted quickly and the recovery plan created faster. Involving stakeholders and project team members who were there while it was failing is critical to recovery buy-in, they need to feel part of the solution.

To summarize,  when our team at Rupert Services are asked to support a project that has substantially veered off course, our team comes in with an inclusive leader who excels in team communication. We understand the need to revisit the original business goals for the project and to create a new process for reaching these. We utilize proven project management methodologies and principles and have the skills and knowledge to communicate these to the project team and gain buy-in.
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