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Topics: Strategy
Ensuring project success on a mismanaged project
Anonymous
To the Project Management Community:

If you were handed a project to manage that was managed by someone else, who has now resigned, was a project team of one, did not engage key stakeholders, did not share project information, locked the company into a contract, and made promises to the Board of Directors (who have committed and approved so much funding there's no turning back), what steps would you take to ensure project success?

A. What tools and techniques would you use?
B. What type of team would you form so late in the project (the consultants are saying their work is nearly done)?
C. What steps would you take to optimize costs and resources?

The timeline of project completion is due in 2 months.

--Any insight you can share would be most appreciated, as this is currently my situation!
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As you described in your quey, it looks like you have already evaluated the project status and it looks it is not on track.
First thing you may need to do is to raise the alarm. Discuss the status with key stakeholders (sponsor and your managers) to get their opinion and acceptance to make changes for project continuing or any other decisions.
This will help you to explore the possibilities e.g. schedule change, budget, involving experts or other resources, fast tracking, crashing etc.
As the given information do not elaborate about the details and problems, it may not be good to suggest any specific solution.
Hope this help.
Not an easy situation at all, but there are two paths to take; speak to the elephant in the room or avoid it.

My recommendation would be to take an approach of honesty, truth, openness, respect, and inclusiveness supported by questions, discussions, honesty, realism, and rational consideration of how to most efficiently meet the intent of the project.
It's a tough situation, but worth the challenge. I would take stock of the situation and diligently understand the balance scope to be completed. Also, would be more communicative to the customer to understand any pain points that need to be addressed. Based on the situation, I would onboard only the resources that are required to complete the project. Give priority to critical tasks and monitor and control the activities closely as only 2 months remain.
Since it was run by a one person team and two months are left, it should not be a big deal technically. Or it was doomed from the beginning. Read the contract.

Guess it is more a political thing.

What does the person expect or fear that asked you to save the project?

Is he or she capable to get resources and funding for you?

Does he or she lie about the project, to the Board or the customer? Make sure he or she understands you will not.

Understand what the customer expects, and make sure they quickly have trust in you.

As Andrew says keep your ethics high. Do not blame anybody but stick to the facts.

Do not become a scapegoat. A two months project is not worth it.
There is no so much room to manoeuvre to make the project a success, since it looks that it was mismanaged for most of its life cycle.

Instead, focus on take a snapshot of the project - the hard cold truth - and draft a roadmap until project completion. Communication is always key, and in this case is even more important. Ensure stakeholders alignment. Have a 1to1 with project sponsor - good practice when switching PMs. Double check project budget, planned and actuals, with F&C. Do not assume that all information has been properly passed on.

As Thomas mentioned, you have been assigned a hot potato. Just make sure that you do not get burn.
I think you just posted my biography. I've been cast into that role before many times. I first assess where we really are and ask for time to do that. I then assess gaps, trying to fill them in, as we move forward together productively.
Review any and all documentation you have.
Identify who is or will be performing work on the project.
Get sponsor, workers, and any SMEs together and identify:
- what is finished?
- what is left to finish?
- how long it will take to finish?
- can you crash the schedule? What, how, and who?
- what can be finished by the deadline, and what can't?
- are scope change control processes available?
- do you need plans for implementation and post-implementation support?

Understand where you are at and how you are going to get to the end before worrying about other tools.

Just my two cents.
Anonymous
Thanks to all. You've relayed valuable insight and given me much to consider. A hot potato that was thrown in my lap for sure. Thanks again!
In our enterprise, we face similar situations. Especially, some private contractors start the work and leave while they get a challenge to cope up with the project activities. In this case, (the case which handling a project started and executed to some extent by other personals), should follow some guidelines.
A. What tools and techniques would you use?
Re-baseline the scope of the work, i.e. identify the remaining work and the resources needed to complete them.
Use schedule compression techniques to fit the timeline within 60days. A crashing in useful in this case if there ample amount of resources.
B. What type of team would you form so late in the project (the consultants are saying their work is nearly done)?
The composition of the teams shall depend on the type of work i.e. if the remaining work is mechanical work a mechanic is needed, if the rest of the tasks are construction, we need civil engineer, a plumber for plumbing, an electrician for related works and so...on.
C. What steps would you take to optimize costs and resources?
In order to optimize the costs, we should orient or give orientation of the tasks and situations for the project completion so the the team will agree to execute the tasks in the WBS., If possible the Project Manager shall state an incentive for the achievement of the the objectives, and after the completion of the work, teams should celebrate it.
Sincerely
Engdaw Admasu
Something sure, you don't have the luxury of time to go through the past events :)
I would find what is to be delivered, who should be strictly involved, get in touch and engage quickly, show confidence and leadership, don't hesitate, prioritize, get Leadership team support and commitment, be transparent and don't promise the moon = show facts.
keep calm and execute.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Good luck!

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