The Four Steps to Recover a Red Project
There are four steps in recovering a red project:
0. Problem realization;
1. Project audit;
2. Data analysis;
3. Solution Negotiation;
4. Plan execution.
That looks like five, but like any recovery, twelve-step or four-step, there must be realization of a problem. Step zero is acknowledging the failure. Without this step, the problems and subsequent resolutions will not have full recognition and the recovery will fail due to the lack of management support. With realization, the recovery process has meaning.
The audit acquires the data to drive the recovery. This step has few if any actions taken. The most severe are to eliminate overtime. Being nonjudgmental is paramount to gathering unbiased data.
The second step is to analyze this information and formulate a recovery plan. The goal of the plan is to fix the issues through root cause analysis. By correcting the root causes, the errant project becomes a normal project and management is easier. It takes more time up front and requires making tough decisions early, but results in less long-term management and increases the odds of success. Left to the end, executives cut root cause analysis, along with the general class of retrospectives, due to lack of interest and minimizing losses.
The recovery plan is necessarily different from the original project. Something on the project must to change, time has been lost and money spent, one or both are over budget; otherwise, the project would not be red. Stakeholders will need to approve changes that affect the deliverable. Therefore, the third step is the negotiation and approval of the solution and the new project.
After the negotiation is complete, the project manager implements all corrective actions and executes the plan. Addressing the root causes will make the project should run like any successful project. However, a vigilant eye should be on the lookout for:
- Old problems resurfacing, especially behavioral issues;
- Overlooked root causes;
- Unfixable problems, such as when a troubled technology is the only option or management is unresponsive;
- Red project stigma tainting the team;
- Mangers overreacting to issues that projects without a red history would handle in stride.