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Dealing with out-of-control projects

November 22, 2006 by Mainak Biswas under Offshore outsourcing139 views
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Everybody who has ever has been into a position where one has to manage a crisis projects (either offshore or in-house) has come to a situation where things seem to be going nowhere. An out-of-control project first gets your attention as the problem is reported one of the three areas:

Schedule
The schedule of project seems unacceptable for some reasons. As a contractor you might feel that it is totally unrealistic given the volume of work. 

Costs
The costs may be sky-rocketing. You may have two people working on the project for past 4 months where this was supposed to be a 5 man-month work of work! The cost may be killing your profits and bringing you into the red.

Resources
The #1 thing an average person thinks of when project runs wild is to add another resource as doing that will release some pressure. But, as a business owner you know that it may not be entirely true.

So what are you going to do? Honestly, it’s for you make some hard decisions. There are two key strategies that should remain in your mind:

Maxi-Min
This means maximizing the minimum profit that you are making on the project.

Or

Mini-Max
This means minimizing the maximum loss that you could incur on the project. 

The strategy that you choose to pursue will depend on particular situation. For example, If the project is more about keeping or building a relationship then most likely, you would pursue the mini-max strategy whereas, if it a one-off thing then pursuing maxi-min is the best alternative. Whatever you choose, the steps below will help you in getting the project back on track.

Getting the project back on its Feet

STEP 1: STOP (for a while!)
The first thing you need to do is to stop the work on the project so that you can review what’s going on. Your objective is to answer the following questions clearly:

  1. Are there any changes in the scope?
  2. What % of the work is complete as per the client?
  3. Are the requirements of the project clearly defined?
  4. Are there any project management issues?

The one thing that you absolutely must be convinced about before moving to STEP 2 is that everybody should be on the same page about the project.

STEP 2: EVALUATE
As a person responsible for the outcome, you need to evaluate the entire scenario. This means answering questions like:

  1. Which section of project does not have clear specification?
  2. How is the present job description different from what was discussed earlier?
  3. What are the reasons behind miscommunications?

This step involves intense communication both with the client and the project team. At the end of this step the client should recognize the problems as well as the project team must have clear picture of what will constitute completion of the given module or the success of the project.

STEP 3: FIX
Once the problem has been clearly defined, it is the next task to fix the root causes. This may involves things like:

  1. Reassigning resources. You may need to move some existing resources out of the project and bring in other resources which the project needs.
  2. Formalize communication structure: You may need to set up fixed structure of reports that the resources need to provide weekly or even everyday if required.
  3. Re-negotiate the contract.

STEP 4: Re-Start
At this stage all the issues that have infested the project has been eradicated and the project must have clear plan with well defined deliverables and deadlines.

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