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Rescue Initiation

“In runaway project situations, people always comment on how the project problems should have been detected earlier. The set of questions presented in this section does not focus on problem detection, but rather looks at the timing and effectiveness of the rescue initiation.”


“Here are some of the questions that the rescue manager should ask related to the project rescue initiation:

  • Was the rescue process initiated as quickly as possible once the project was determined to be a runaway project? Nerves are already on edge once a project is declared a disaster. Organizations can exacerbate the problem by stalling the start of the rescue process, which can happen because of fear, ignorance, indecision, or any combination thereof. Effective triggers should be in place, and the rescue process initiation should be planned once the project shows signs of failure but before it is formally declared as such. Every day the rescue is delayed is another day of effort and expense shoveled into the black hole.
  • Was the rescue initiation formally communicated to the extended project team? Throughout this section of the web site, we have affirmed the rescue process is a project unto itself. As a project, it should have the same characteristics of a ‘normal’ project initiation. There should be a formal kickoff meeting with all project stakeholders to explain the differences between the rescue effort and the regular project effort. Rescue goals and objectives should be confirmed and the rescue communication plan should be explained. Most importantly, rescue completion criteria – when the project rescue ends and the regular technical process resumes – should be communicated.
  • Was the rescue team staffed with the appropriate personnel? As with any other project, just having a good process is not enough. You need to have a rescue team that is experienced in the technical process and projects of similar size and scope. The team must also be eager and willing to help get the project back on track. Beware of hidden agendas or negative attitudes on the rescue team, because they will inhibit any successful rescue attempts. You need to understand how the rescue team was selected. Availability should not be driving agenda.
  • How could we have improved the rescue initiation? This question encourages the extended team members to identify any other enhancements to the rescue initiation process. They should be pressed to identify any issues or concerns that they have not shared.
  • Should we have initiated a project rescue? This question seems almost theoretical, based upon the results of the rescue attempt. If the project could not be saved, it’s easy to say the attempt should not have been made. Likewise, if the project was successfully rescued, it’s easy to say the rescue effort should have been made. But if you need to dig a little deeper into the analysis to confirm these simplistic deductions. If the project rescue attempt failed, was it because the process failed or was it because the project was so inherently flawed that it was beyond rescue? If the latter situation was the culprit, why wasn’t this recognized when the decision to initiate a project rescue was made? Was the decision politically motivated, because someone was still trying to hide bad news? Now the situation is even worse because more time and expense were frittered away. If the project was successfully rescued, what was the cost? Was the success truly a success or was it a declared success? This very tough question is designed to find out if you threw good money after bad.”


“Once you have analyzed the answers to these questions, you can make the appropriate improvements and define meaningful metrics (for example, elapsed time between the formal disaster declaration and rescue initiation) for this part of the rescue process.”
Project managers who want to successfully lead project rescues would benefit from PMP certification from the Project Management Institute. This certification will give you the benefit of a globally recognized brand and will tend to improve your standing with your stakeholders. If you are someone who finds it easy to study on your own, we can help you with the certification process. To find out more about our CBT product, AceIt, and how you can become certified, visit our AceIt FEATURES page