What do you do if you inherit a ‘trainwreck’?

So we’ve all been there.. You’ve heard the rumours, there’s a project which has become a problem.. It’s become a ‘trainwreck’. I’ve used the term ‘trainwreck’ after reading such a post written by Steven in the SLAW website and I thought i’d add some comments.

Trainwrecks happen for many different reasons, whether that be poor requirements, poor project management, limited project resource, poor support from a vendor or incredibly short timescales to deliver. The important thing to realise is that they happen more regularly the people think.

Inheriting a trainwreck hasn’t happened to me often but when it has I’ve (on the majority of instances) turned the project around and got the project delivered. The details are a high-level process which I run through in order to get things back on track.

1 – Read through any summary project documentation (if there is any)
2 – Identify and speak to the senior stakeholders and validate the objectives and scope
3 – Review the scope and objectives against the requirements and the work completed to date
4 – Arrange a project team meet to cover the basics and review and action plan
5 – Set expectation by agreeing some actions timescales to get ones house in order and get sign off from the senior stakeholders
6 – The last and final one is to clearly communicate to all a plan for bringing the project on track and provide the associated documentation

By following these simple rules I tend (though not always – there’s always a few difficult people) start to build trust with all project stakeholders and from there ensure the project gets delivered. This hasn’t always been on time or to budget but, well I’m not a miracle worker.

Good luck with the trainwrecks and please add your best practice to the comments, as I’m keen to learn about how you deal with these too.

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