As a project manager, you might get hired to take over a project which is in a very bad shape. Have you ever landed in such situation?

I faced a similar situation in one of my past projects. The previous project manager was removed on the grounds of missing several milestones of the project.

Taking over a failing project can never be easy! But, you can sail through it easily if you do the right things. Want to know what are those ‘right’ things? Continue reading!

Statement of work 

Begin from the beginning! To get a hold of the project, understand the goal, purpose and the scope of the project in detail by overviewing the statement of work.

After carefully studying it, you will get to know what the project deliverables are and what part of the project scope is still left to be worked on. Based on this understanding you can move to the next step.

Project plan

Re-working on the project plan is critical in this situation. You have to create your own plan with new timelines and budget estimates. Use the work breakdown structure and critical path analysis to create new schedules, resource requirements, and the budget.

Modify project plan

Negotiate with the management

Based on your project plan, it is imperative to negotiate with the concerned authority for more time, more budget, more resource or lesser scope. Sometimes project managers get lots of pressure from the top to cut down on budget or timeline as they have already lost time and budget on this project.

But, your role as a project manager is to resist those pressures and come up with a realistic plan with reasonable time, budget, and scope. All you need is to be prepared with the correct reasoning for your requirements and be confident about it!

Realistic Estimates

Create a realistic work packages estimate. The best way to do it is to involve the team members in the estimation process. At this stage of the project, the team members might be exhausted and frustrated. So, involving them in the planning and the estimation process will pump them up and make them more accountable for their work.

Using the technical experience of the team will also help you to create most realistic estimates.

Regular Meetings and project monitoring

Since the project has been de-railed once, so you need to micromanage it to make sure there are no glitches this time. Take frequent small meetings with the team to overview every small task and monitor progress.

When you monitor the project minutely, it allows you to solve problems early and remove bottlenecks fast.


Motivate the team

When you are working on a project which has failed once, you don’t just act as a manager but also as a leader. You have to make sure that the team is working to the best of their abilities.

To ensure that, share the project progress with the team, acknowledge their work and celebrate small victories. Do you best to bring in new energy in the team!

Wrap Up

Re-doing the wrongs to make it right is always difficult. But, that’s what makes the job of a project manager challenging and exciting. At least for me, it does!

In the nutshell, when you are hired to work on a failing project, you just need to do 3 things:

(1) Look the project from a different perspective and bring in your viewpoints and skills to revive it

(2) Don’t get overwhelmed with the pressures and the present situations

(3) keep the team motivated.

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