Thursday, October 13, 2016

Parachute Project Management

For the last 12 years, I would often be called on to take over projects which were in significant trouble. I've been involved in manufacturing, engineering, procurement, installation, construction, software implementations, and even a few live events. The funny thing is that I rarely finished any of the projects I was on, because almost as soon as I brought the project back into alignment, I would be asked to take over another project. If you've spend time with me, you've probably heard me say:

I never start a project, I rarely finish a project. Too often I parachute into a project that is already on fire, put out the flames, control the chaos, pack the 'chute and leave for the next project.

Shortly after I developed a reputation as a recovery / turn-around expert I was asked to put together a program on how to recover failed projects. After discussing my process with a friend who spent time as a smoke-jumper in the Rocky Mountains, I noticed a similarity between what I was doing and what a smoke-jumper does. The reconnaissance, planning, and even the initial steps feel very similar. Hence the creation of Parachute Project Management


Since the creation of the program, it is one of my more requested programs. With many surveys saying more than 50% of projects failing regardless of industry and discipline (with some like last year's Chaos Report from the Standish Group inferring the number could be as high as 84%), there is a dramatic need for project turn-around and recovery expertise. A methodology that others can duplicate and repeat is extremely attractive. 

In fact, just last week I presented this program to the Piedmont Triad North Carolina Project Management Institute's Professional Development Day, and will be presenting the program again the day after this post lands at the Eastern Iowa Project Management Institute Professional Development Day. If you happen to be in Cedar Rapids on the 14th, stop by the Cedar Rapids Marriott to learn more about the program. Here's a teaser trailer for you:



Not to give away the whole farm, but a couple of items for your consideration:

1. When taking over a troubled project, your first instinct may be to jump in and start putting out fires. I would highly recommend that you take time to ascertain what is going on in the project first. Too often leaders will jump into fire-fighting mode without a plan, causing the leader to focus on the wrong fires, spread embers (make things worse), or become consumed by the fire themselves. 

2. Don't get too wrapped up in the original project plan. Along with number 1, take the time to look at it, but realize that if the original project plan was correct and usable, then the project probably wouldn't be in trouble.

3. Take a look at your project reports. There are two reasons for this:
     a. It is likely that the reporting to date is inaccurate at best and falsified at worst. You need to know what was reported, and you can't afford to take it at face value.
     b. As the project became hotter and hotter, as it got into more trouble, upper management may have put more and more reporting requirements on the project team in order to ensure "proper visibility." In many cases, this means your project team may be spending more time dealing with reporting requirements and accountability meetings than actually doing work on the project. It would be a good idea to determine what is really required for reporting and push to keep to that standard.

If you want to learn more about the Parachute Project Management program, and how C4 Explosive Leadership Training can improve your project success rate, drop me an email at mmorey@C4Leader.com. Hope to see you at the Easter Iowa PMI PDD!

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