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Avoiding Project Failure through Effective Project Recovery

written by: Amanda Dcosta • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/6/2011

Any project recovery plan calls for a comprehensive review of the project that identifies the exact causes of failure and applies effective remedial measures to successfully complete the project.

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    Project recovery constitutes certain corrective steps to put the sick project back on rail and ensure its successful completion. A comprehensive project recovery plan will mean going back to the basics to retrace the manner in which the project was originally conceived and the steps taken at every stage for its implementation. Unless the factors that caused the project failure are properly diagnosed, no remedial measures will produce the desired effect.

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    Identifying the problem

    As stated earlier, identifying the causes that lead the project failure is critically important to complete the recovery plan. The original project documents have to be studied once again to ascertain if there were any wrong assumptions. This should be followed by re-examining all the steps subsequently taken for implementing the project to determine which wrong step triggered the project failure. There may also be certain extraneous factors that might have affected the progress of the project – like government policies, change in tax structure and sudden escalation of costs, market influence and other similar unforeseen developments.

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    Is recovery possible?

    After diagnosing the exact causes of the project failure, the next obvious step is to realistically assess whether project recovery is possible and if so, at what cost. It has to be kept in mind that all projects are not capable of recovery and at times the recovery cost will be too high and it Will be more prudent to accept failure and abandon the project. Some projects may call for only certain readjustments whereas others may demand a total overhaul. It is not beneficial to indulge in blame game and point accusing finger against any person.

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    How to Recover?

    There are no standard formulas that can be readily applied to save a project as each project is different and any recovery plan has to be project-specific. The project recovery plan has to be worked out bearing in mind the budgetary limits, time constraints, human resources, the management tools needed and availability of professional expertise. It is also important to know if the project can be turned around with additional funds and whether the project sponsors or higher management will be forthcoming.

    Some recovery plans may also entail re-negotiating terms with the vendors, reconstituting the project team and employing fresh talent. A new plan of action has to be created, taking care that earlier mistakes do not recur and there are no cost or time overruns a second time. At times, it is preferable to conceive a couple of alternate recovery plans and present them to the higher management or the company’s think tank to exercise the right option.

    A burnt child dreads the fire. Once the project gets a fresh lease of life, the responsibility to successfully complete the project becomes graver and this means evolving and putting in place a foolproof strategy and the wrong steps taken earlier are not repeated. If a project recovery is not feasible, it is prudent to accept failure and abandon the project than waste time and incur further losses.