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Project Rescue Rules

"Project rescues can be rife with conflict for several reasons:People may not understand what is being done; people may not agree with what's being done; and people may believe a different direction is better for the project or for themselves. The following is a set of project rules that will resove these concerns. They should be posted on your intranet and appended to the initial status reports so that the project rescue rules are known to everyone:
  • Leadership  A project rescue requires someone to define a workable vision that others can understand, buy into, and move forward with. This demands that someone, usualy the project rescue manager, leads the effort through the problems and solutions.
  • Be clear  Clarity is lacking on many projects, but it is the best way to reduce risks. This includes clarity of business requirements, design, acceptance, and responsibilities. This is not about the format, structure, or grammar of the information, although this helps, but rather the unambiguous statement of what is really required.
  • Communicate  Build a culture that inspires the team to communicate often and completely to one another. Such communication should include expectations, decision points, and meeting points, for the purpose of sharing information, maintaining buy-in, and reducing surprises. The area of communication is very important. It might even make sense to bring all the members of the rescue team together in the same geography to improve informal communication and team bonding.
  • Listen  Listen to what other members of the team are saying and what they have learned from being in the trenches. Strong leadership coupled with the knowledge gained from listening to experiences are a powerful combination.
  • Always streamline  The rescue manager and the project team should continually think of ways to reach their end goal with less effort and without introducing new risks. Continue to remove allo non-value-added processes/tasks to get rid of wasted effort.
  • Single decision points  Identify the deadlines by which specific decisions need to be made throughout the project life cycle and by whom. The Roles and Responsibilities section of the Statement of Work (SOW) is the best place to unequivocally identify the team members that have both the responsibility and authority to make decisions.
  • Find problems early  Go into every project assuming that you are going to hit a wall at some point during the life cycle. This usually occurs when the complexities of the project become clear to the project team. The sooner you reach this point, the more time you have to resolve the problems.
  • Test early and test often  Start reviewing and testing deliverables as soon as they are built. Keep testing them throughout the development cycle and avoid those common, nasty last-minute testing surprises that plague too many projects.
  • Trust and verify  Believe what people are telling you, but always verify with other sources.
  • Ask every question  Don't be afraid to ask any question that could help the project succeed. Nothing should be considered too stupid to ask.
  • Share what you've learned  Do not withhold information that is gathered from the rest of the project team. Be truthful and be known to be truthful.
  • Work as a team  Create a sense of one project team that is invested in winning or failing together. The project outcome is a shared responsibility.
  • Be ready for comparisons  The project rescue manager should also be ready to make tradeoffs to get the project back on track.
  • Be smart about efficiency  Be careful that a search for efficiency does not derail the project. For example, some people ask why status meetings are being conducted if things appear to be going well. The answer is that maybe the status meeting will identify what is not going well."
The above 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.