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Positive Factors

· “Constructive pressure Knowing that project failure may be around the corner, all the team members may forgo personal issues and politics to accept best practices that will move the project towards success. Keeping this constructive pressure in the forefront is an ongoing responsibility of the project rescue manager.

· Another chance This is a sanctioned opportunity to clarify what the team knows and needs to know, and to ask new questions. A new approach can be built. Ask open-ended questions that encourage the sponsors to identify any other latent ideas, issues, or concerns that have not been shared before.

· Re-energized Even if it’s only due to adrenalin, the extended team will feel a sense of revitalization and renewal that can help it break past losing patterns. Progress will help to maintain this passion.

· Refocused The new project rescue strategy offers an opportunity to get everybody focused on the same things and to field the same priorities. They can focus on the newly validated priorities.

· Jettisoning the baggage Failure breeds a lot of negative emotions and factors that, in essence, create a runaway train that is hurtling toward disaster. There is a lot of momentum that resists the simple fixes. The project rescue is a forced stop with an opportunity to jettison heavy baggage by redefining the rules of engagement and offering amnesty to the sources of the previous problems before starting up at full speed again.

· Chance for a positive contribution Turning to a new project direction also allows the experienced project team to define an end state that will be successfully achieved. The sponsors and stakeholders are now familiar with the challenges the project is facing, and need to focus on generating value for the company from a zero base.”

Negative Factors

Resistance to Change

“People have a tendency to resist change for any number of reasons. They may feel they have a lot to lose, they may fear a new outcome, or they simply may believe that their way is the right one and the only way.”

“The solution is to focus on achieving the limited change necessary to get through the project rescue. This solution must also be mandated by the executive sponsor and stands the best chance of working.”

“At some point, it may turn out that some people just cannot become part of the solution and the team. After a reasonable due diligence period to try and turn things around, the only recourse left open to you may be to identify the potential contributions of these people and find a replacement source, remove the related requirements from the rescue initiative, or reduce the scope as much as possible.”

Hidden Motives

“People on the project team may also have their own agendas that can hurt the project. This is not uncommon, but in some cases, these motives may result in bad decisions, delayed implementations, and team conflicts.”

“It’s hard to prove a hidden agenda, and trying to do so is also disruptive to the project. Rescue managers should not be oblivious to this possibility. Dealing with it requires a tighter project schedule and more checkpoints with individuals who appear to have contradictory motives.”

Inaccurate Information

“It is possible that information collected during the assessment phase was inaccurate. Of course, increasing the number of data collection points and checkpoints reduces this likelihood. Increasing user involvement throughout the build process is also a powerful defense mechanism.”

“Using the test bed or harness, which should be established at the start of the execution phase, offers a good touch and feel environment for members of the extended team to view the implementation of the facts that were collected and analyzed.”

“The contingency built into the rescue plan may need to be used to respond to any inaccurate information that still gets through.”

Employee Burnout

“Strong passion and enthusiasm will inspire members of the extended project team to work hard and work long hours. This will produce results within the tight framework of the intervention. However, some team members may start exhibiting signs of burnout.”

“Some symptoms of burnout include a loss of energy, more than usual sarcasm, physical anxiety, disillusionment, and anger. Employees may begin to seem resigned to an outcome. They may stop exercising and begin overeating. Some employees may work long, late hours without producing value. This latter point will be identified by the project rescue plan.”

“Burnout is a complex problem that requires professional assistance. Reversing the effect, once it starts, is very difficult, if not impossible, to do in a short time. It’s best to avoid creating an environment that is a breeding ground for this type of reaction.”

“Supporting the team members by removing activities that are not valuable to the rescue initiative can be helpful. Rewarding their efforts and showing appreciation is another approach. Being open to their concerns is also important. Team members need to be treated as professionals. They need to be reminded of the goals of the initiative and why all the effort being expended is valuable to the organization. Their trust needs to be earned and returned. Above all, listen, observe, and talk with the team members and do not let them experience feelings of burnout.”

Missing Skills

“It may turn out that some team members do not have all the relevant skills they need to be effective. Training is difficult during the tight timeframe of a rescue intervention, so it may be necessary to bring in experts in the topic area from elsewhere in the organization or from third parties. The executive sponsor’s commitment is required to tap into resources in other departments.”

“It is also a useful idea to speak to several third-party vendors to see whether they have resources with the key skills that the project could require at some point. It’s also useful to get done the negotiations about price, commitment, service levels, and resource availability – as a precaution. These resources could also be called on to deal with spikes in the workload.”

Lack of Buy-in

“Team members may verbally agree to the rescue plan but secretly withhold their full buy-in to the process. Getting this is mandatory for success. Dealing with a lack of buy-in is not as politically charged as uncovering hidden motives. It can be met head-on by asking direct questions and marketing the power of the direction being followed. The plan being followed derives its authority from executive management so all team members should get on board. The message needs to be repeated to maintain the level of buy-in.”


“Overconfidence is a significant risk factor at any point in a project life cycle. It may cause the team to accept requirements that are impossible to implement, avoid making difficult decisions, or be loose with missed deadlines.”

“Any project is susceptible to failure – no matter how small and straightforward the project may appear to seem. Even a tight rescue plan requires hard work and discipline to salvage the project. Overconfidence is actually not that rare. Showing overconfident team members the ongoing error log, and the original business requirements, is a good tool for bringing back a sense of perspective

Reverting to Previous Bad Habits

“As the pressure subsides, the organization and the team may begin to revert to the habits that plagued the project in the first place. Previous motives, conflicts, competition, and bloated processes could begin to return. As a successful outcome becomes more probable, team members may begin to try and position themselves favorable in the organization. They may attempt to get more power and more recognition. They might want to take more credit for the positive results of the rescue.”

“From a consultant’s perspective, the goal of the rescue mission is to save the project and empower the project team to continue. Permanent employees of the organization share the same goal, but they cannot reasonably dissociate themselves from the internal structure and hierarchy of the organization.”

“With the support of the executive sponsor, use the lessons learned from the errors that originally afflicted the project to delay the onset of these reversals. The rescue manager has little influence after the rescue is completed, but can use the rescue management toolkit to keep the true status of the initiative in front of the extended team so that it is not lulled into a false sense of security too soon.”