The Main Ingredient for Getting Troubled Projects Back on Track

Project Leadership (Becoming an Interventionist)

When diagnosing project issues it is important to step back from the situation and look objectively at the project as a whole. Often times, the people involved in the day to day project efforts become so engrossed with project status, metrics, and management concerns, that they overlook addressing the root cause of a problem. A problem may be obvious, but the solution, such as increasing top management commitment or changing unrealistic expectations, is not. That is why the final stage of the collaborative intervention process is to intervene.

The collaborative intervention process outlines how to intervene by presenting the findings of a project assessment and working with the project team to develop an implementation plan to address the findings.  Just as in the movies, the hero or heroine is aware that disaster is going to occur and must figure out how to stop it. The same is true for the enterprise project team. The project manager, a functional lead, or a key stakeholder may see the danger ahead, but doesn’t know how to stop it. That’s where the collaborative part comes in. Who in the organization or project structure has the ability and authority to make change? Is it one person, two, an executive, a vendor, or a team composed of all of them?  More than likely it is the team. And to avert disaster have the project change direction, you need the buy-in of multiple people and departments. It is the interventionist’s job to bring the warning signs to the attention of the stakeholders, propose a solution, and facilitate its implementation.

Making significant changes to get an on-going project back on track is tricky and relies more on the ability to change and influence human behavior than the ability to update a project dashboard or conduct a fit-gap session. It also requires project leadership, not just project management. And, to further complicate things, the leadership may need to come from someone who is not in the position of authority, but who needs to convince the people in positions of authority that change is required for project success. Mastery of such leadership skills comes from building a foundation of trust and credibility with project stakeholders and knowing how to navigate an organizational structure to implement solutions to complex problems.


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