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Project Recovery – How Clarity, Simplicity and Focus delivered

Sorry for a temporary absence – this was triggered by a temporary sojourn into a Project Recovery engagement. A long-standing client (large company) had some difficulties with a project and had lost clear line of sight to when they would arrive at their next milestone and the milestone was imminent – less than four weeks out.

Background to the engagement:

The project involved four different companies delivering to one client company. There was a lead company/main contractor, but their understanding of their obligations was not aligned with the customers expectations.

The main contractor was based in Europe, while the customer was US-based, which added some language, time difference and cultural dimensions that needed to be accommodated within the chosen execution model.

My Objective (definition of success, as defined by the client)

As I always tell people, develop a charter for your projects – and so it was for my engagement – I needed a clear objective which would allow me to ensure a successful outcome.

It was simple – deliver the next milestone.

To this, I added my own chosen principles, which is that we should foster good working relationships, enjoy our work, be open and honest, and deliver a quality product.

And so I began a 3+ week engagement.

The Process

Step1: Observe and Plan

What & Why: To me, it all begins with understanding what we are doing and why we are doing it. Therefore, I set about reading all the relevant project documentation – design documents and such.

When: What was the critical milestone and how did it fit into the plan. This highlighted to me that the delivery of the product in question, had a direct impact on an already delivered product and could have serious consequences if some issues were not resolved and soak tested.

Who: Who was doing what and was this clearly stated and understood? As with so many projects, it was a hotly debated subject and there was certainly lots of room to improve in this area.

Communications: What channels existed to control normal execution, coordination, issue resolution and items that needed to be escalated? While there were some standing meetings, there was also an absence overall planning and the associated dissemination of this into day-to-day priorities and action lists. This was an area that would bring great benefit over the coming weeks.

Day to Day Operations: Most of the action at this time revolved around testing at the main contractors facility in Europe. I based myself here and initially observed the modus operandi. Technically the parties all had a strong command of their technology – however, an integrated plan with daily targets, 15 minute SCRUM and so on did not exist and was urgently needed.

Step 2: Develop a Plan and Implement

The Plan: With the scope of work clarified, the responsibilities of the individual companies also clear and the end objective agreed, I developed a plan for the work that needed to be completed by the milestone – this was developed with input from all parties, published and managed daily.

Scoreboard: Alongside the plan, a score-board was developed for the execution team and progress against plan was measure here. We review this daily during our morning SCRUM meeting, or if we hit a major issue which stalled progress, we would meet at the scoreboard and look at what we could do.

Reports: Apart from the scoreboard, we only had one extra report, containing all the data pertaining to execution – performance metrics of the product being tested, issues log (we used Nozbe) – all relevant data was collected centrally and maintained up-to-date.

Meetings: The minimum required – daily SCRUM and then just as need. We also retained the twice weekly vendor co-ordination meeting that the customer hosted.

Principles: The team signed on to a number of key principle – open and honest communication, act as one team, honest endeavor, deliver the best quality solution for the customer, respect for one another firstly as people and secondly as technical experts in various domains.

Step 3: Measure, Take Action if required, Measure, Take action if required

Focus in delivery, deal with events and use good scientific measures to judges progress and rework the plan as required.

That’s all it took – Clarity, Simplicity & Focus.

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  1. I like the emphasis on priciest William esp. Respect each other, first as people, second as experts. Useful insight.

  2. As part of the team for one week I enjoyed the work with William. He did a great job to improve the situation within a few days.