any of these sound familiar? The project feels like a lie as the project plan
has little in common with actual events. There is complete lack of trust between customers, managers and
developers. No one has any sense of schedule or cost. All attempts at fixing it
just make things worse. In spite of chronic overtime the customer has lost all
hope of every receiving the system. The team's morale is low and attrition is
high? These are the common symptoms of a project in dire need of recovery.
Project recovery is a rescue effort to save the project, setting the project
again on credible schedule budget and quality. Recovery often requires
establishing a new schedule and budget calibrated to what the team can produce
as well as re-scoping the project. Project recovery is a limited period of time
of strong intervention by a determined external expert taking decisive actions to
save the project. You need project recovery assistance when there is no hope of
ever meeting any schedule or staying on any budget, or when quality is out of
control as fixing one bug introduces new defects. The goals of recovery is to
stop the hemorrhaging and deliver on a new date and scope, to restore trust
across the project stakeholders, to rekindle faith in the team's own abilities,
and avoid the crisis recurrence in the future.
Over the years IDesign was called to save projects on the brink and we have successfully lead project recovery efforts, gaining
unique experience and insight in rescuing projects in distress. IDesign's
recovery does not focus on fixing symptoms such as the schedule or the budget
but instead addressing the root causes of the failure, regaining control over
the project. We use recovery as a bridge from despair to delivery, capped in
duration, after which we return the project to conventional project management.
While there is no formula to project recovery (since every case is unique) we
have found a few general techniques and approaches that are always instrumental
in designing and executing project recovery:
Design review using root cause analysis to identify why things went wrong. We
identify deterministic causes (the project doomed to fail out
of the gate), execution failures, and process failure. For each reason we
itemize how it contributed to failure, mapping it to specific behavior and
practices, drawing lessons and educating the team and management. We use
project design tools to reconstruct
what actually took place and learn of the team's true capabilities and
A salvage operation deciding what can be saved, what
must be salvaged and what must be discarded. We rely heavily on quantified
analysis methods, not opinions, measuring the quality and complexity of the
various components in the project, and estimating the ROI of each salvage
Damage control to determine impact on other projects,
followed by a crucial effort to stabilize quality, and quantified
refactoring effort across the project.
Project basics overhaul. We redefine the project fundamentals
across quality, process and architecture. These were almost always the root
cause of failure and we often can’t afford to wait post-recovery to
establish best practices.
A comprehensive recovery plan. We calibrate the plan to
what the team can produce, negotiated across all project stakeholders,
incorporating the salvaged items, restructured team and the new activities.
The recovery plan is key to effective recovery. In essence
the recovery plan is nothing but project design for the recovery effort, using
regular project design techniques and tools. However, unlike regular project
designs (such as the ones taught in our
Design Master Class) the recovery plan is always short-term, and not
aspiring for the fastest schedule or cheapest delivery, or to use the correct
system design. These attributes are secondary to delivering the project and
rebuilding trust, so we design the recovery for minimum acceptable risk, using
our Method for project design and quantified risk.
Once the initial success is demonstrated and the new practices are taking root,
IDesign disengages, because the project must stand on its own feet. We often do
remain in contact for periodic health checks, design reviews and similar related
activities through our virtual architect
here to watch a webcast outlining some of our project recovery techniques and here
for additional information.