Project Management Performance, Success, Failure, Risk and Recovery and Management

Project Management Performance, Success, Failure, Risk and Recovery Management

By:  Lisa Sabatella

“ No matter how good the team or how efficient the methodology, if we’re not solving the right problem, the project fails.” –- Woody Williams

Project and Program Management is a job that is extremely fulfilling but also comes with huge, often competing and difficult challenges and constraints that are out of the PM’s control and require a unique combination of leadership skills and personal finesse to be successful.  The demands are great but so are the rewards.  However, no matter how tough and hair-raising the job can be, professionals choose the job for the love and self-fulfillment the job brings them by overcoming the many internal and external challenges and constraints that exist in today’s organizations.

Managing Project Risk is and Recovery has become a top essential skill for Project and Program Managers due to lessons learned and survey results.   Great Project management and delivery of successful results requires a combination of stakeholder support, organizational structure, assets and processes, culture, funding and PM communication, skills, authority and many more.  Still, even with all the stars in alignment, project results in the US are as follows as of year-end 2015 and are reportedly down approximately 2% overall for 2016.

The reasons a project or program fails or becomes derailed are rooted in the statistics. On the average, 39% of all projects are considered a success (delivered on time, on budget, and with desired features and functions).  43% of projects are late, overbudget or delivered with less scope and features than planned and 18 % fail or cancel prior to completion or are delivered and never used. Project risk and failure has a much higher incidence of occurring on projects with a budget greater than 1 million increases with each million due to incorrect assumptions, net present value, investment time horizon, current vs future cost of capita, cost of debt, ROI, debt equity and project risk adjustment factors. Any of these factors can cause a project to go off track and demand recovery action, assuming all proper risk mitigation processes have been taken.

Other known causes of Project Risk and Failure:
Changing priorities within organization – 40%
Inaccurate requirements – 38%
Change in  project objectives –  35%
Undefined risks/opportunities – 30%
Poor communication – 30%
Undefined project goals – 30%
Inadequate sponsor support – 29%
Inadequate cost estimates – 29%
Inaccurate task time estimate – 27%
Resource dependency – 25%
Poor change management – 25%
Inadequate resource forecasting – 23%
Inexperienced project manage(i.e., lack of business acumen) – 20%
Limited resources – 20%
Procrastination within team – 13%
Task dependency – 11%
Other – 9%

Project Recovery Mitigation and Best Practice

Has the project gone off track? If a project has become derailed take these steps:

Escalate to Project Sponsor, PMO and Executive Leadership as appropriate.

Report the Project status as RED across all status reports and to Senior Leadership –  reserved for strategic critical, non-negotiable compliance or promise dates on market commitments

The existing PM or a newly resourced PM will be assigned to PROJECT RESCUE and have a Rescue Project Manager’s accountability and responsibilities. Tasks, timelines, responsibilities and the stakes differ from non-rescue projects.

Congratulations. Your organization has selected you based on your reputation and their confidence that you can and will rescue and deliver the expected capability on time, meeting customer and stakeholder expectations, successfully.  Good Luck!

What are your next steps?  Make a pot of Chicken Soup, or simply respond with the typical optimistic can do Project Manager response … “Sure: I’ll just waive my magic wand and just make it happen! “  We all know that great  project managers who successfully utilize humor build highly  collaborative, productive and successful teams.  These managers are also perceived as more positive, likable and as possessing great communication skills. Humor is a powerful motivator; it relieves stress and promotes creativity. Used correctly, it is a powerful and effective tool.

PM tasks and considerations for Project Risk and Rescue –  

Quickly, and accurately reassess and diagnose the issues. Present reasonable solutions for an on-time value based and quality delivery.

Begin with a reassessment of the business priority as stated in the business cases, charters, scope statements and project level requirements. Ensure the CBA is up to date and contains accurate assumptions and financial values. Check the ROI.   Enlist the support of business and technical stakeholders. Facilitate an executive decision to remove or pair-down business cases or scope via proper change management processes.

Negotiate for independence and objectivity. The ability to operate with independence and objectivity on a project rescue is pivotal to success and assumes an environment of fair play, trust, transparency and rigorous factual reporting. The PM must be able to govern performance and achievement. insist on accountability and intervene to correct inefficiencies or ineffective practices and contract for timely stakeholder involvement.

“Clear the air” with teams and realign expectations to achieve success.

Gain trust and bridge broken relationships to get the project back on track.

Assess the Project or Program Leveraging 7 Project Recovery Techniques

  • Determine whether to recover or not recover and what to recover. Assess the program or project to determine the project viability. Answer the questions: Have the project needs changed? If so, how? Does it warrant throwing it out and starting a new project? Have Priorities changed, if so, should the project be put on hold? Are funds sufficient to continue? If not, now and where can more funds be obtained, or should the project be cancelled?
  • Determine Overtime needs: When re-scheduling or project holds aren’t viable options, overtime is unavoidable. Project Managers need to be armed with competencies to boost motivation and morale. Communicate time-lines for how long overtime is to last. Project Managers need to recognize Team member’s efforts and communicate clearly they are working toward a goal and purpose and it will come to an end. Reward and celebrate team success through non-formal programs and recognition methods. Communicate and celebrate team successes to management and senior leadership teams to ensure acknowledgement and rewards are received via formal pay for reward programs.
  • Crash the Schedule: Secure additional resources for tasks on the critical path to shorten the amount of time needed to complete tasks. Some of the ways to shorten the critical path, are shortening the duration of a task on the critical path, or changing a task constraint to allow for more scheduling flexibility or altering the schedule of a task, if possible.   It may also be worth considering changing the project management methodology, perhaps considering Critical Chain, or some variant of Agile Project Management or combining methodologies along a parallel path.
  • Fast Track Tasks:  With this approach, you would look for tasks that are currently designated to be completed in sequence, and change them to be completed either totally or partially in parallel.  The idea behind this approach is that you can complete more in less time.  Another approach to fast tracking is known as partial overlapping.  With this approach, you find that tasks that could be started right before its predecessor is complete.
  • Say No to Scope Change:” The most valuable and least used word in project management is  “NO” and is the most difficult message to convey to executives but failing to do so may result in unrealistic commitments or cause scope creep.  This is where Project Management authority is pivotal to delivery success and could derail a “gun-shy” Project Manager. Lack of strict adherence to Scope is a fundamental cause of failed projects. Use diplomacy. It is critical, especially as a Rescue Project Manager. Manage scope by adherence to the Project Scope Statement stakeholder sign-off. Leverage the scope statement as the measuring stick for scope changes that fall within the originally agreed upon Project Scope.
  • Scope Reduction:Perhaps the initial scope of the project was too large or the required effort to rescue the project and deliver on critical Core Value and Objectives can’t be completed in the allotted time. Facilitate a stakeholder session to determine areas of scope to remove or delay to another phase of the project to meet deadlines without jeopardizing value and quality.
  • Choose the Right PM for the Job: Retain existing Project Manager or bring in a new Project Manager or outside help to rescue the project. Choose based on successful deliveries and track records.

Detailed Considerations for Recovery

To build an effective Team a rescue PM with the appropriate level of independence and objectivity would have the influence in selecting the ideal project team members that best meets the recue projects already troubles status and risk and time constraints.

The rescue PM will need to devise a strategy for improving team effectiveness that will best facilitate the smooth execution of the project. This can be a two -step approach where the rescue PM starts evaluating the prior performance of the project team members and makes off-boarding, onboarding and retaining decisions.

The rescue PM is then responsible for improving team effectiveness. Clearly communicate to all team member’s expectations, improvements, accountability, collaboration, performance measurement and overall team operations. Conduct team sessions, one-on-ones Webinars or engage a formal Training team for assistance. Ensure communications are clear, crisp and measurable.

Project Recovery –  The big Question

How do you measure the success of these efforts toward a project rescue? Measuring success for rescue projects isn’t as simple as measuring expected variances in scope, schedule, cost and quality. Metrics on a sick project have already exceeded expected variances by the stakeholders. A Rescue PM must re-set expectations, success criteria and measurement with stakeholders by:

  • Obtaining new success criteria with variances for revised scope, schedule and cost with signed off.
  • Set up periodic project quality checks with the stakeholder committee.
  • Escalating project environment issues and impacts of delayed and delivery.
  • Account for additional funding needs and impacts of resource extensions based on stakeholder priority.
  • A PM’s Emotional Intelligence, strong business acumen, , ability to adapt and overcome challenges, manage successful teams, communicate, navigate and execute under compressed timelines in an enterprise global landscape will become a coveted competency where project recovery will start to play a much more important role than standard project execution moving forward.



(Study Source) Publicly available studies across the IT industry but not intended to be representative of all companies’ project management practices or results.


About the author: Lisa Sabatella

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