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3 Project Recovery Strategies

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 8/15/2010

What happens when your project is due in a few days, it’s not complete, and you’re pretty sure you’ll be coming in over budget? In cases such as these, you need to utilize some project recovery strategies to keep the project on track. Jean Scheid looks at how to save a project.

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    Sick Morgue File Someone once said, “A minute saved at the start is just as effective as one saved at the end." This quote is very relative when it comes to project recovery strategies. If you panic or do nothing, you’re project will fail. If you see a project is on its way to disaster, what methods can you use to ensure the project is not a total failure, but instead, an effective project?

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    3 Project Recovery Methods

    Sick2 Morgue File If you find a project in disarray or sinking, try some of these strategies to get the project back on track:

    • To Save or Not to Save? – Read any article on the Internet about project recovery strategies and the first tip you’ll probably find is to ask yourself if the project can be saved. In the world of project management, there are many methodologies utilized, so to find out if a project is worth saving often relies on what method you’re using. A 5S, Lean Six Sigma or Agile project could be saved simply based on the phases used—meaning not every element is a total waste. On the other hand, if you’re using another methodology that requires lengthy stages, many resources, and not enough support, you may want to just let the ship sink and start again. If you choose to let the ship sail unfinished, keep in mind that you’ll most likely have a legal and binding contract with your client so you may have to redo the project for free.
    • PMI Strategies – Within PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), there are real steps that cover project recovery methods. Richard W Bailey, PMP suggests revisiting the following if you see a project going downhill based on PMBOK techniques:
      • Intervention
      • Assessment
      • Recommendation
      • Planning
      • Execution
      • Closure

    Baily suggests using the waterfall methodology in any project recovery attempt and to look at all your project initiation documents including the project scope, charter, budget, risks and controls and use the above six steps to help you “correct incomplete or missing elements," and “revise subsequent deliverables." A project assessment team may be your best choice if following this PMI strategy for project recovery.

    • Root Cause Strategies – A root cause analysis is another way to save a project is to examine why the project is failing. There have to be some root causes you can identify and by analyzing them, you may be able to save the project. If using a root cause method, you may be surprised to see that some of your problems seem to happen on ever project. By identifying repetitive problems, you can implement both short and long term strategies to first fix the project at hand, and then make changes to the repetitive problems for future projects.
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    Project Revamp

    Not all managers can totally revamp a project to make it succeed. Using one of these 3 project recovery strategies may help, but skipping the planning phases in the beginning is the cause of most project failures.

    There are some situations in project management where it might be the client or stakeholder’s fault. Clients and stakeholders often change the rules in the middle of the game which can leave you stuck. You can avoid these as well if you involve the client or stakeholders in your project initiation process and make sure they understand the authoritative power you hold as the project manager.

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    1. Anonymous Quote -
    2. PMI Sydney Chapter (Australia) (12/6/2000) – Kym Henderson -

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