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Rescue Transition

“Perhaps the most ignored phase of the rescue process is the transition phase. This phase marks the end of the formal rescue process as the project is confirmed to be back on track and under the regular management and technical processes. The completion of the rescue effort is not necessarily the completion of the project itself, although they may coincide. Frequently, the rescue process ends with a whimper, which is rather astounding because several people have just completed one of the most stressful, intense periods of their career and there is no formal declaration of success. Understandably, most organizations would be reluctant to stage a huge celebration with the history of the runaway project fresh in mind; however, a remarkable episode has been completed, and that should call for some form of recognition beyond t-shirts and coffee mugs.”


“There should be a formal transition from rescue mode to ‘normal’ mode. The rescue project should have a formal shut-down just like any other project. The questions for this phase are designed to help you determine whether or not the formal transition took place and, if so, its effectiveness and any long-term effects on the project team members. You hope to never get into another situation like this one, but if you do, you want to have confidence that your team knows how to handle the situation and bring it to a successful conclusion. Here are some questions that the rescue manager should pose to the project team member regarding execution of the transition phase:

  • When did the project rescue effort end, and how did you know? This question gets right to the key point. Did the rescue manager properly shut down the rescue project and formally communicate the end of the rescue effort to the extended project team? Once again, the communications plan is tested for effectiveness.
  • Where are the project rescue artifacts archived? Do you have access to them? These questions help you confirm how the formal project rescue shut-down took place. The rescue team members should have access to the final project rescue work products and deliverables for future reference. The rescue manager should confirm that this information is documented in an archive index that shows a brief description of each artifact’s content as well as its location in electronic and paper format.
  • What lessons did you learn from the project rescue? This is another open-ended question that is intended to personalize the project rescue for the team member. For each team member to grow in their experience and career, they must be able to articulate, assimilate, and deploy improvements in the ways they work in the future. Those who are ignorant of history may be condemned to repeat it but those who choose to not learn from it are condemned to perpetual ineptitude.
  • What recognition did you receive for your contribution to the project rescue effort? Nothing is more disheartening than working hard, achieving results, and going unrecognized. The answer to this question gives you insight to the leadership style and capability of the rescue manager – even if that’s you! Lavish celebrations are probably inappropriate. Save that for the successful completion of the rescued project. But a thank you note for each team member and the unintended victims of the runaway project – their respective families – goes a long way in establishing a sense of accomplishment and loyalty. This is not a totally altruistic gesture. You probably need these same people to complete the rescued project.
  • How did you celebrate the project rescue completion? Don’t be surprised to hear ‘I got some sleep’ as a common answer to this question. The rescue process is mentally, physically, and emotionally demanding. Exhaustion is a common by-product of the rescue process. Give you team some time to pause and recharge; but not too much time, because you don’t want your rescued project to start slipping again.”

Transition of the project back to regular management of the project may be problematic. Why did the project go off the rails in the first place? If the answer is that proper project management processes were weak or lacking, then returning to those processes will surely lead to another rescue. There is no better way I know of to ensure proper processes are considered and implemented than the project management certification process that PMI supports. AceIt© is an inexpensive, quick, and relatively painless way to prepare you to pass that exam. Click here for more information on AceIt©, the PMP® Exam Preparation Training tool.