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  • Guy Stuart, 3PCubed

Recovering Your Projects After CV19


Troubled projects carry a high cost to both your business and all stakeholders; financial, reputational and personal – so its vital not only for the hard tangible aspects but for the softer, personal side that projects are given every opportunity to recover and be successful.


Trouble Ahead?

Your project control system will be gathering data on the ‘triple lock’ of ‘time, cost and scope’ and regularly comparing actual performance to estimates and reporting variances.


These variances are acceptable and they are inevitable; and so long as they stay within the agreed ‘tolerances’ you are in good shape. It’s when those variances exceed “acceptable” levels that your project is in trouble and action is needed to return it to or as close as possible to baseline.


The Concept of “Rapid” Assessment and Recovery

The worst possible time for things to go awry is at the end or near the end of the project lifecycle. At this point you don’t have the luxury of time – but all too often the client, stakeholders and sponsors will demand immediate results.


Assessment and recovery planning needs to be achieved quickly. 3PC five step approach is a framework to provide immediate structure and results for your project.


Step 1—Revising the Project ‘Charter’

The project charter defines a lot of information, included is the responsibilities and delegated authorities.


It’s vital this is revised to show who the Project Recovery Leader (PRL) is, or if there is a recoveyr team (RT) who the individuals are, describe their roles and communicate that their ‘authority’ has been sanctioned.


The PRL and RT will typically be external to the organisation and viewed as “outsiders”; therefore, it’s important at the outset that the existing project team are fully committed to working with the Recovery Team (RT).


The revised Project Charter should:


Define the mission with the Project Sponsor/Project Board.

Its vital that the project sponsor or board fully support and back the RPL and the RT. The lack of such support is detrimental to the success of any project, but in a recovery project, it is devastating.


Having a sponsor with the appropriate level of seniority and credibility will send a clear message to all stakeholders that this work is of the utmost importance.


Project history, legacy and sensitivities.

Projects operate in complex and political environment so being aware of cultural context, the stories, motivations and hidden objectives of the key stakeholders will enable the PRL to better negotiate around the critical issues that will arise during the assessment and recovery process.


Establish initial project team contact.

The project manager and his or her team must be involved with the PRL and the RT at the outset to help assess and recover the project. Establishing early contact with the project team will help gain their support and minimize fear of retribution or embarrassment. This will increase their willingness to help the recovery team.


Determine the assessment approach.

Communication is key – so the PRL must produce a full assessment plan. The RT needs to identify project data and team resources required to implement the assessment plan.

The plan will appear similar to any project plan. It should, as a minimum, include a WBS, a network diagram, resource requirements and a schedule of assessment actions and how long they will take to complete.


Complete the Project Charter and obtain approval.

The PRL should establishment approval of the charter at the outset – this is critical to recovery success. Everyone involved must agree and be committed to the same objectives. It must be signed by a senior manager in the organization and be distributed to all stakeholders.


Step 2—Project Recovery Assessment Plan

The PRL and RT should develop an assessment plan that:

· is realistic

· can be executed to achieve the charter's objectives

· allows for an assessment in as short a time as possible

· ensures that accurate findings are produced

· minimises project team distraction

To achieve this our model centres around two areas:

· interviews and

· analysing project data/documentation

Critical Project Documentation

The PRL/RT will begin with a review of pertinent project documentation. This information is the starting point, helping the PRL/RT gain insight, perspective and understanding on why the project is experiencing difficulties.


Examples of such documentation include:

· Old Project charter

· Contract or Statement of Work (SOW), if applicable

· Project plan

· Project metrics and processes

· Signed internal agreements with internal organizations

· Estimate and pricing details

· Project organization chart

· Contracts


Interviews & Stakeholder Assessment

Using the project organization chart, the PRL/RT will identify the individuals who must be interviewed. For example:

· Project team members

· Project manager

· Manager of project manager

· PMO personnel

· Project sponsor

· Contractors/vendors

· Clients/customers


Project Recovery Assessment Agenda and Schedule

Finally, the PRL/RT will produce a day-by-day, hour-by-hour schedule of the assessment process and in doing so ensures everyone who needs to interviewed can male themselves available. Typically this should last no more than a couple of days.


When completed, the assessment plan will include:

· Focused objectives of the assessment

· WBS of the assessment process

· Estimates and resources required for the assessment

· Risk and problem management approaches

· Hourly schedule of activities

· Tools for each task

· List of deliverables to be produced

· War-room needs (if applicable)


Step 3—Conducting the Assessment

At this point the PRL / RT is now enabled to conduct the Assessment Plan.


This has three main objectives:

· Determining the true current status of the project

· Identifying the major threats, opportunities and issues for the project moving forward

· Establishing an extended team for the recovery effort


Executing the assessment plan includes:

· Conducting the interviews

· Analyzing the data

· Developing a rank-ordered list of findings


Conducting the Interviews

Good interview techniques are essential to gathering good information. We will typically use two assessors and one interviewee for each session


Analysing the Data

Data analysis involves asking a lot of questions about the data and information contained in the project documentation, as well as information gained through the interviews.


The purpose of the analysis is to fully understand the real status of the project. The PRL/RT needs to know what the data is telling them and, equally as important, what it doesn't reveal.


Probing questions will be asked for each piece of documentation collected. The root causes of troubled projects tend to be centered on such poor project management techniques as incomplete project planning, inadequate tracking and poor control.


By carefully analysing the project documentation, a picture will emerge of the oversights and lack of sound project management practices. From this analysis, the PRL/RT will identify the threats, problems and opportunities facing the project and be in a position to rapidly develop and execute the project recovery plan.


Developing the Ranked Ordered List of Findings

After the analysis the PRL/RT will prepare its findings in the form of a well-defined list of threats, opportunities and issues ranked by order of severity.


Can 3PC recover the project?

At this point the PRL presents the finding – and in doing so asks two important questions:

1. Should we attempt to recover this project?

2. Is it even worth saving?


Answering this question can be a difficult task, therefore the following are general scenarios that might lead to the decision to not recover a project:


· Business benefit cannot be delivered within a reasonable time or cost structure

· The political environment is not supportive of recovery

· The sponsor has departed and no replacement has stepped forward

· Business needs have changed

· Significant technological changes have occurred rendering the approach invalid

· Litigation is in process

· Market conditions have changed


What’s the Purpose of Recovery

3PC defined recovery as saving a project from loss and restoring it to usefulness and the likelihood of recovering to the business case objectives or revising these as a result of the assessment phase.


The PRL/RT main objectives are:

· Producing an achievable schedule

· Re-establishing customer and management confidence

· Re-baselining the project plan

· Sorting project problems

· Rebuilding the original project team


Step 4—Developing the Recovery Plan

The next step is for the PRL/RT to develop a recovery project plan and assembling an extended team to accomplish the work.


Assembling a team and getting the job done is a project in itself and the PRL/ RT is now faced with a situation where they might have a difficult time obtaining buy-in and support or having motivated team members on board.


There are key differences that 3PC we use when approaching the plan.


Simply, the project recovery plan for a troubled project:

· Must not fail.

· Will be subject to extraordinary scrutiny so the team must be ready to defend every action they take.

· Has fundamental changes in scope, schedule and cost.

· Will be a shorter duration.

· Will be subject to tighter monitoring and controlling.

· Requires greater frequency of communicating and reporting.


The recovery plan will take into account how the PRL/RT will address people and personnel issues, specifically:


· Focus on building everyone's morale

· Deal directly with personnel problems

· Resolve serious leadership problems

· Add people to the project carefully, if at all


Step 5—3PC Recovery Delivery

The overarching objective of this 5 step plan is to delivery a project that is no longer in recovery. The plan will be lead by the PRL and support by the RT using best practice project management tools and techniques.


On a regular basis, defined in the plan, the PRL will use a simple PDCA cycle (Plan – Do – Check – Act) which is intended to adapt to change on an iterative cycle.


As part of the recovery plan – the PRL/RT will have defined and agreed what a ‘steady state’ looks like and the acceptance criteria. At this point a hand over process is implemented which allows the PRL/RT to start stepping away from the day to day delivery.


At an agreed state the PRL/RT will complete an ‘exit process review’ in which the project sponsor/board “sign off” on ‘project recovery’ and will hand the project back to BAU activities or closure – whichever is applicable.

If you would like more information or an informal chat about 3PCubed Project Recovery Planning please get in touch via the website.

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