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Todd Williams was my favorite person by the end of the introduction. His way of thinking, his faith and belief in project management, and his ability as a storyteller were all things I liked. Even though I wasn’t working on a project, I was intrigued by the idea of a book that would show me how to rescue a troubled project. Let’s get to the lessons.
Todd Williams’ book Rescue the Problem Project: An Complete Guide to Identifying and Preventing Project Failure is a great read. This book will help you spot a project that is on the verge of becoming’red’ if you ever have doubts.
A five-step recovery plan
Williams outlines a five-step approach to project recovery. These are the steps:
Realize that you have to acknowledge the problem before you can solve it.
Audit: Perform an objective audit of your project to identify the issues.
Analyse: Use the audit data to identify root causes and formulate solutions.
Negotiation: Mediate between the parties to reach an acceptable solution.
Execution: Implement the recovery plan.
If you find yourself in a situation where your project is on the brink of collapse, should you stop it? Absolutely not. Williams suggests that you “slow down the bleeding” instead of stopping the project. He wrote:
It is essential that the system is running in order to properly diagnose it. The project must be stopped in order to stop the errant behavior. This makes it more difficult to identify the root cause of the problem. Although there are some situations that may benefit from a project being stopped after either the audit or analysis, these are rare. It is better to stop the bleeding and implement remedial measures.
Who is to blame?
It is easy to point the finger at the project manager when a project fails. It is possible that the project manager is to blame for the failures. Williams doesn’t believe so. He believes there are more factors at play than one person doing a poor job.
Projects turn red when they fail to follow the direction and supervision of the steering committee, project sponsor and executive management. This group of executives failed to recognize and fix problems before the project became seriously troubled. The project manager should be held responsible for all that has happened, but there should be checks and balances in place to minimize the chance of it happening again.
Sometimes the problem is not with people, but with policies. Williams describes a software development project in which internal IT policies prevented testing of the product on computers outside of the company’s firewall. Many bugs were missed and the deployment was a disaster. Customers were unhappy.
Poor methods or the improper application of methods can also lead to problems. Williams writes that “the organisation’s project management philosophy might not be suitable for the project.” There are many reasons why projects can fail. It is important to identify the causes, but assigning blame to individuals or groups of people is not the best way to get a project back on track.
This book was new to me and I loved it. I have read many project management books. Many of them, especially those that are not aimed at academics, are not as “new” as this one. Rescue the Problem Project is not for those who are working on failing projects. The case studies will show you how to avoid this situation. If your project is in trouble and reporting a status of Red/Amber, you should get a copy.
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