- Posted November 1, 2012 by
Made in America
The Professional Limited Company
Troubled Projects - Rescue My Project
For Immediate Release 09/07/12
Here is the story...
Two months ago, I inherited a project that was three phases. The first phase a prototype, second phase a deliverable on one product and third phase is a deliverable on a second supporting product.
Since I began work overseeing the project, we have found that the original task resource needs were not realistic in phases 2 and 3 making the original budget estimate 50% of the actual costs in resources. Needless to say this is pushing the timeframe out also.
It may be good visual is to think of this project like a glacier. What one actually sees and interacts with (the user interface), is only a small part of the project . This visual part looks to have been originally estimated correctly. However, the vast majority of the project work is in constructing what is below to surface. That was by far underestimated or not estimated or even considered correctly at the time.
This is the rest of the story. I am a small business man without other trained employees or a location.
My business plan is to manufacture a mountain bicycle in Orem, Utah. The city has opened a biking path nearby and the market for a locally made bicycle is enough to make a prototype bicycle. This is the first phase. The second phase is a deliverable product of the mountain bicycle to sell locally. At this point I have no trained employees or a location. I have found a location for sale or lease which has a bicycle store for Fezarri bicycles and has a new aluminum model for sale. I have decided to hire local students from the local charter school to assemble the frames and other parts, but so far so good. The third phase is a second supporting product of an arrangement to make two tandem bicycles side by side. The marketing of this dual bicycle side-by-side has not been arranged nor created by an ad agency. And cost estimates of advertizing and marketing are not yet in hand. So the iceberg begins to reveal itself!
In short, I am a business man with no plan to complete the manufacturing a mountain bicycle dual.
I have a steel welded prototype mountain bicycle and the measurements of the frame to reproduce.
I have no cost estimates to make the bicycle frame or assemble the parts and no location or employees.
What do I do now? Who shall I ask? Who is involved? The realtor, the bank, the employees?
End of the story: don’t try to be a hero but ask for help – but prepare the case before you do and go with some alternative suggestions in your backpack and be able to answer not so kind questions.
In the end assemble your facts, and then take it to senior management (the guys that have to pay for it) and lay it out for them, warts and all, and let them make the decision.
What I would do is go back to the original estimate and hopefully, there was a detailed scope document that was prepared by either the client or in conjunction with the client and prepare a document that shows what was estimated as far as effort and what the new numbers ought to be, with reasons for each change.
It would be a lengthy procedure and time consuming and would require assistance from the client's resources, especially those who were involved in the original estimate.
Scope creep is part and parcel of any project and strict adherence to documenting every step, change and differences are essential on a daily basis.
I would not tarry in creating this document and presenting it to management with the adjusted values and open the discussion as to how you could still get the job done, but perhaps with a more vanilla approach to the delivery, with additional add-in phases later on.
Good luck. This is never easy, however cutting and running won't do much for you reputation and the client is still left with an uncompleted project and might be no closer to having it completed in any shape that could be considered successful.
The key here is to see what can be done so that you both win.
… scope must be added although the client has not asked for it. You must communicate this to the client with sound argument why the scope is required.
I am interested to know why phases 2 and 3 were estimated when you state phase 1 was a prototype - wouldn't having a prototype dictate what the estimate for phases 2 and 3 would be?
You are going to have to have strong communication and analytical skills to bring your client around and as has been mentioned to get to win-win you and/or your company will have to be willing to negotiate and give on somethings. Also, as has been mentioned ensure you are not the lone wolf on this on your companies side - bring in the original and any other players you need - this needs to be a team effort.
How did it pan out? Happy ending or hopefully not a slippery slope into the icy waters?
Some very good, sound advice and suggestions are being offered
From experience - Often when projects become de-railed, participants become understandably "locked" in the history, detail and drama's of the actual project context
We so often miss the strategic implications of the troubled project or the root causes which may repeat elsewhere in either the client or contractor system - exposing businesses to re-occurring subtle and often significant enterprise or strategic risk - as in this case
A critical project failure may alternatively be thought of as a strategic gift .
As an example I work with a Client who experiences many project terminations - these are predominantly underpinned by poor scoping, unreasonable risk transfer into the supply chain, inappropriate contracts for the nature of work, In this example, the Client and suppliers are at an "early maturity" associated with contract design and management - It's the unusual cases and situations that lead to troubled projects and failures.
It may be wise to consider the strategic implications and exposure of both companies to this sort of re-occurring problem - especially if this sort of project is not usual business practice for either Client or your company - low frequency, significant impact risks .
A strategic context may help facilitate a different sort of business case, relationship, and improvement response -
Considering specialized, independent facilitation may be helpful if not critical .
This re-framing of the problem - from project into systemic / strategic context - as a cultural / organizational blind spot - has other benefits namely removal of blame on the original Account / Project manager or bid team (which allows a more open postmortem) and the potential to add high strategic value to both companies.
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