5 Steps to Reverse a Project in Chaos

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By Ramiro Rodrigues

 

Recently, an acquaintance pointed out to me that the projects environment is susceptible to chaos. In his view, all it takes is a lack of effective leadership. If leaders aren’t constantly focused on solving the problems that occur in an environment of resistance and change, chaos will take place. After 20 years of professional work on corporate projects, I couldn’t disagree.

 

Obviously, the forces that pave the path to chaos in projects are not exact, but rather derived from human factors. Without adequate leadership, distinct interests, personalities and priorities will drive any corporate enterprise to disorder and, consequently, failure.

 

But if chaos has already taken hold, is there a way to reverse it?

 

In order to determine an effective solution, you’ll need to research and analyze the environment. Here, I present a practical and relevant framework for projects in this situation:

 

Step 1: Investigate carefully and critically all the variables that are exerting power in the project. These could include the political context, governance, financial and operational applications, organizational models, skills and the human characteristics of those involved.

 

Step 2: Based on these investigations, develop a list of items that are bringing negative interferences to the success of the project and seek to prioritize them with the support of the project sponsor. Consider all the layers of issues that are creating turmoil on the project. 

 

Step 3: With the list in your hands, develop a proposal of actions aimed at the effective recovery of the items. The tip here is that one should be attentive so that the proposed actions to recover the specific items do not divert at any time from the ultimate goals of the project.

 

Step 4: Validate whether the project sponsor is truly engaged and committed to making the proposed recovery plan viable. Without their engagement, the effort will be worthless.

 

Step 5: Execute the recovery plan as a parallel project, albeit one related to the original project. In this stage, it is important to implement best practices of project management, such as status meetings with the analysis of obtained results and clear communication with those involved.

 

It’s obvious this process will require more effort from the leadership, but if the sponsoring organization is committed and interested in project recovery, the investment is justified. And in this context, the project manager will have a great opportunity to demonstrate his or her resilience and ability to overcome challenges.

 

Have you turned around a project in chaos? Share your experiences below.

Posted by Ramiro Rodrigues on: June 25, 2019 08:50 AM | Permalink

Comments (8)

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Very interesting, thanks for sharing

These are very good steps, thank you for sharing!

Thanks for sharing

Ramiro,

Step 4 is so important, the key to recovery.

Thanks for sharing, very good points. Point 4 is critical, as many issues can be prevented and resolved with the right involvement from the Project sponsor.

Thank you for the thoughtful content, Ramiro. While I agree that the factors for chaos you present are real, I think you might be scapegoating the PM.

I see a project in chaos as being directly related to the quality of the PM. If we accept the premise that "Without adequate leadership, distinct interests, personalities and priorities will drive any corporate enterprise to disorder and, consequently, failure," then the PM has failed to adequately lead all project stakeholders to a shared interest regardless of personality or priority.

A stakeholder not aligned with the intended outcome (willingly or reluctantly) has not been adequately shown the value at a level they might need to understand.

My PMO handed me a project in chaos 6 months ago, and I have managed to turn it around by focusing on exactly these things. My sponsor was informed of the issues. My PMO supported my corrective actions. However the responsibility for "righting the ship" rested squarely on my shoulders... as it should have.

Excellent Points...

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