Projects in our life sciences industry are frequently worth millions; they span countries and affect thousands of employees. Compliance initiatives also often come with tight deadlines. Such complexity cannot be mastered with a trial-and-error approach, and failure is out of the question.
This makes it all the more important for the steering board and project management to recognize potential difficulties as early as possible and effectively bring the project back on track. The goal of the following series of articles is to convey skills for detecting project difficulties early on and averting the risks in a four-step process.
Graph: Turn around in four phases (click the image to enlarge)
How to assess early indicators
Not every bump in the road is critical, and hardly any of them imply imminent failure. Nonetheless, the following events should raise suspicion:
- Stakeholders are disinterested, fail to attend meetings or cancel them altogether
- Scope discussions are repeated over and over
- Implementation partners send technicians, avoiding direct contact
- Project buffers are used up by undetected risks in the early project stages
- Work packages remain at 90% completion for weeks, but are never finished
Allow your experience and intuition (“gut feeling”) to guide you – many experienced project managers notice shifts in attitude quickly. A project is definitely in trouble if
- it fails to meet its budget, schedule or expectations
- and is likely to miss projected milestones.
Never ignore early indicators, never hesitate. React fast and consistently, but with care and precision.
How to get your project back on track
The turnaround process for a failing project can be divided into four phases. Each of these phases can be kept short if the situation allows, but none of them should be skipped.
Experience has shown that the complete lead time of all four phases lies between one and eight weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the project and the severity of the problem.
The next issues of this newsletter will introduce each phase in detail and provide a practical guide to implementing the process successfully.
■ Massimo Eucalipto