How to get a failing project back on track

While each project is unique and subjected to its own specific risks, there are some universals to heed when it comes to recovering a failing project.

It can be a short path between project initiation and project failure. And while not every failing project is worth recovering, project managers who heed early warning signs of project failure can rescue a troubled project by tapping their valuable training and experience and executing the following.

Tip 1: Recognize the signs of trouble

First and foremost, pay close attention for any signs that there may be a problem with your project. Here are some important signs your project may be headed towards the ditch.

  1. Communication gaps are increasing in frequency and severity. If the right information is not ending up in the right hands at the necessary time, bigger issues that have not been identified may be in play. Keep in frequent contact with functional team leaders, key team members and stakeholders so you can catch wind of any murmurings of trouble before they get out of hand and derail your project.
  2. Increasing conflict. Conflict often surfaces when there are communication gaps and missed task and deliverable deadlines. Project managers need to keep their ears open for light conflict, which can quickly escalate. Addressing signs of conflict early can help reduce the amount and severity of issues before they get out of control and jeopardize your project.
  3. Reduced project buy-in. When team members and stakeholders lose interest or confidence in a project, buy-in decreases. Typically this means a project manager has missed communication gaps and/or increasing conflict that have triggered discouragement. At this stage, it is not too late to get a project back on track. By directly and intentionally engaging stakeholders and team members in dialogue about any underlying issues, you can turn the corner on improving buy-in. Be sure to get to the source of the problem as directly and quickly as possible.
  4. Frequently missed deadlines. Once deadlines are being missed, the risk to your project has already become serious. Getting project tasks back on track should take a front seat first before analyzing and addressing what happened.

For more tips on spotting a failing project, see “5 early warning signs of project failure.”

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