"Dear Angela, how can I make the most/turn around a project that isn’t going as planned?"
My first thought was “Did you start this project or did you inherit it?” which made me realize my answers would be different, based upon your answer. Since I can’t actually hear your response, I’ll just cover both options.
Nobody likes dealing with unhappy clients; or friends, co-workers and family for that matter. Generally we like to avoid it but as Project Managers, it’s simply part of our job. There are going to be those projects that just don’t go according to plan.
1. When the project has been yours from the beginning:
If you’ve been involved from the beginning then you should have been able to tell when things started getting off track, and have documented it. Document, document, document. Nothing is more useful then to be able to look back and say, “yes, we are over budget but on Feb 27th during our status call, we talked about this. We decided as a team to allow the overage because we felt we could save time on future tasks.” If you’ve been documenting all along, then you can gently remind the client by using your reports.
Projects rarely go as planned so you’ll have lots of opportunities to “turn them around.” Start by having a sit down with the client to discuss the reality of where you are currently and where you have to go to complete the project. Then determine the steps needed to get there. Being realistic about the steps needed is the key. I’ve found clients to be very willing to help realistically hit a goal when they understand all the steps needed to arrive there.
Just one more thing - You really should be having a mini “where are we and how are we going to get where we want to go” meeting each week with your client. It’s called a status meeting.
2. Picking up someone else’s project:
When you come into a project that someone else started, it’s even harder for the project to be successful. There will be a lack of relationship with the client that has to be overcome. They are going to want to believe that your predecessor told you all you’ll need to know but 99 times out of 100, that just isn’t so. I’ve found that by forcing them to spend time reviewing their project with me, they come to respect my ability to understand their project and a relationship is established. Not only do you learn about what it is going to take to please them and be successful on the project, you learn about their style of communication!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Angela PM is the executive leader of Project Insight’s latest project management platform, PI#team. She is a natural born leader and of course, Project Management is her passion. Angela is a Project Management Consultant with over 15 years of experience managing complex website projects. She has worked her tail off to become the best professional in her industry. Many in her field respect, admire and even fear the amount of dedication and detail she puts into her work. Her expertise, coupled with her positive and straight-forward attitude make her the perfect person to get industry insight from.