So you’ve got a project in trouble and your sponsor is threatening to pull the plug. You need a project recovery plan. Why? Well, simply put, you are in a position where you need to regain the trust of your stakeholders and ensure them that you can deliver what you promise. Whether you realize it or not, you need to do damage control and reputation salvaging in order to rebuild your customer’s confidence in you and your team. One of the best ways to take the first step towards this is to build a project recovery plan. Here are some key elements that you will need to include in your recovery plan.
Root Cause Identification
The core of any recovery plan is the identification and proposed resolution of the issues and problems that have plagued the project, leading it to the situation you are in. Part of any plan (recovery or otherwise) is the identification of a problem (or set of problems) that you are trying to solve. By taking inventory of the issues that have led to your current project situation you are showing your customer that you know what went wrong. As part of the problem statements, you need to clearly state to your customer the root cause of the problem – saying that you simply have/had the problem will not suffice. If the issue is a large number of defects reported that is holding up progress, you would need to identify the root cause of the issue – perhaps your quality assurance testing missed some areas or was not thorough enough. If your team is late on delivering, perhaps the root cause is overly-optimistic estimating (or not enough resources to meet the schedule). Whatever the problem may be, root cause identification is a critical first step in plotting a course correction.
Acknowledgement of Failures
One of the biggest contributors to distrust of project teams is the refusal to accept any responsibility for the missteps on a project. As a customer you want to feel that your vendor has a good understanding of what has gone wrong but more importantly, that they take ownership (where attributable) of the issues. This will give the customer a sense that you and your project team have a heightened awareness of the overall levity of the situation but more importantly that you are aware of the mistakes made and are committed to ensuring that those same mistakes are in the past and that you are committed to making things right.
Clear, Achievable Goals
As a follow up to your root cause identification, you need to put together a plan to overcome these problems to the customer’s satisfaction. One technique that I have found yielded good results in the past was to list out each of your issues one-by-one and alongside your root cause, spell out a clear plan with measureable goals and objectives on how you will overcome this issue and steer your project back to green. Citing the examples above, if your project is having an abnormally high number of defects reported, perhaps your goal can be stated to have all reported defects resolved by a specific date and call out how you will achieve that date (ex. Man-hours required to resolve the defects and build a resourcing plan to meet that need). If you are plagued with late delivery issues, perhaps your goal will be to meet your deliverables by a stated date (which would require an updated schedule) and your plan to meet this goal will be to ensure that your team is staffed appropriately (perhaps adding more senior resources to supplement the team).
Admitting failure is never easy however part of being a successful project manager means looking back at your performance (and by extension your team’s performance) and conclude that you maybe didn’t do everything right. The one common theme that you need to keep front of mind through the entire exercise of building a recovery plan is that it is aimed at rebuilding your customer’s trust in you and your team. Admit your mistakes, show your customer you understand what went wrong and reassure them that your plan to turn things around is achievable.