The Sunken ShipsMuhammad Zeeshan Ali, PMP, PMI-ACP
During my career as Project Management Consultant, Providing Project Governance Services, the most frequent assignments I had to work included the customers with their troubled projects. These projects are a stage at which whatever that can be done to save the project has been long passed behind. The only thing, at that stage, that can make a project work in a miracle.
So then why is it that the organizations hire experts/consultants when it is all over? I think the most common reason for that is the belief that an expert/consultant can change the things around by performing some kind of revelation.
Actually there is something the consultant can do, apart from making the customer realize and embrace the reality. Like with any sunken ship, there are always few aspects that can prove useful. Similarly there are some pieces of information, in every project, that can prove useful as a part of lessons learned and building the organizational knowledge base. As a consultant, the best service we could provide at that stage is to help customers close the project and document the reasons and provide a guideline for the customer for future projects of similar nature.
One of the most obvious recovery from a failed project is generally the work that was completed. For example, in a software development project, the code for the completed/working module can be utilized in future projects and thus can save resources and time.
Another important element is the practices and processes that were used in the project that proved effective. Most of the time, it was more about the execution of the projects that was focused rather than the processes. As a consultant, we also review the process for any improvements and try to make them more “Lean”. Apart from all the working pieces and good things, we also list down things that should be avoided next time and should be listed as “things not to do”.
One area we, as consultants, focus the most is Risk Management. In my experience, over 50% of the reasons for failures can be determined if proper risk management is in place. Similarly, as consultants, we also have to work with the Executive Management of the customers on the level of understanding of the project. Mindset and understanding of the Stakeholders is also the key to success. We not only provide them with feedback and guidance for the future but also build their skills through a series of training sessions to help them effectively work on the recommendations.