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When your project exhibits one or more of the symptoms described in the section titled "Symptoms of Troubled Projects", and further investigation reveals that your project is at risk of not delivering to budget, schedule, or scope, it's time to intervene.

The following is an excerpt from a book written by Sanjiv Purba and Joseph Zucchero, published by McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2100 Powell Street, 10th Floor, Emeryville, California 94608 U.S.A. Sanjiv has over 20 years of experience managing large projects and many years engaged in rescuing ailing projects.

Project Rescue

Sanjiv and Joseph advise that there are 3 key points to consider when deciding on planning and implementing a project rescue:

  1. "Only by changing the fundamental, underlying reasons (root causes) of the symptoms that are being observed, can the troubled project get back on track."
  2. "Time or money is of the essence on most projects and you're probably running out of both at this stage of the life cycle."
  3. "Trying to do everything with limited resources is impossible and it's time to make choices that will provide critical value to the business."
Launching a project rescue calls for a change in the "sea state" of the project. Key to this change are the need for action and the recognition of the urgency of the need.

The project rescue has a life cycle of its own which mirrors the project's life cycle. The Assessment phase initiates the rescue, the Intervention Planning phase plans the rescue, the Intervention Execution phase implements the plan, and the Post-intervention Review phase closes the rescue out.

The rescue needs a champion. If you're reading this and contemplating a project rescue you're likely that person. If you're also the project manager you'll need to convince the project sponsor of the need and urgency for the rescue and to make sure they're on board. You may also need others to help you plan and implement the rescue. We refer to this as the "team". In the Assessment phase the team will gather project information and review the information. To do this the team needs to gather project documentation such as reports, metrics, the project schedule, etc. Interviews of project stakeholders will shape your rescue strategy and interviews with the project team members will give you each team members unique perspective on the issues the project faces. They may also provide some valuable tips on how to fix it.

The sections described above and the rest of the pages in this area represent a framework to structure your project rescue. The pages in the Enhancing the Project Rescue Framework offer a perspective of project rescue that focus on how the various activities are related and what deliverables are required.