5 Steps to Turnaround Management and Recovering a Project In Crisis
I will share some of these learnings across future posts themed on Project Management. This post is about a standard recipe to Turnaround management , one that I’ve internalized as an approach to handling a project in trouble, and that I’ve refined over the years. In simple terms, it is a 5-step process:
1. Assess situation & identify the ‘real’ issues
A project is in trouble for some real reason, and the first step is to do a thorough assessment to find out why. While it is tempting to get judgemental based on one’s biases and jump into quick fixes, it is essential to take in a dispassionate view of the situation. What often helps is to empathise with the team and the client, hear their side of the story and try looking at things from their perspective.
This is a critical first step to unearth the ‘real’ underlying causes, tangible or intangible, by taking in a strategic or bird’s-eye view. Finding the source-of-fire is more critical, rather than wasting limited energy by attempting to put-out-every-flame in view. I’ve seen disasters where managers come in with a biased opinion, try to force-fit their non-grounded solution and end up on a prolonged wild-goose chase, just because they didn’t do a thorough assessment to start with.
2. Action for the short AND long term
While assessment is important, the time for reaction in such critical project situations is usually very limited. With things burning everywhere, situation slipping out of control every day and escalation channels getting overused, people would naturally look up to you to do something quick. One needs to demonstrate urgency, quickly prioritize a list of actions to be taken and hit the ground running. This action list must be dynamic and be tailored in parallel with the ongoing assessment from step#1.
It is crucial to identify a mix of short-term or tactical actions and some long-term ones, that would bring about marked improvements in the mid to long term, and get you to stability. I’ve seen managers make the mistake of spending their entire energy on operational, day-to-day fixes without architecting changes in the long run. They eventually wear out running the daily treadmill, and give up on the marathon.