Recovering from Project Failure

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

No one likes to think about project failure. Everyone involved with project management knows that failed projects happen, but we all like to prefer that they only happen to someone else. We prefer to think that we have the right methodology and processes in place to prevent a major failure. Sure there may be some projects that are late, short on scope, low on quality and over budget…but that’s inevitable, right?

The truth is that a major project failure can happen to anyone. Good processes, training and controls can help to minimize the risks, but you can never completely eliminate the possibility of a project going completely off the rails and being cancelled or written off as a total loss.

What’s important is to make sure that the organization can recover from such a situation, and that requires both advance planning (it’s too late to start planning the recovery when the disaster has already happened) and strong execution.

Building a recovery plan
Anyone with experience in IT will be familiar with things like disaster recovery planning and business continuity planning, and a project failure recovery plan is the same sort of thing. You aren’t necessarily going to run annual drills to test whether the plan works, but you do need to ensure that the plan is up to date and ready to go when needed.

Aside from the practical, …

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