Project professionals can find themselves in very strange worlds, but not nearly as bizarre as the Recovery Project.
In the spirit of all the amazing things one sees and hears while on such assignments, here are some highly opinionated perspectives and satirical perspectives about this dark category of rogue programmes and projects.
How do you spot a Recovery Project.
To be eligible for recovery, a project (which will be covered by programmes) will be significantly off-course compared to its original baselines, unable or unwilling to deliver the benefits at the dates agreed upon with project sponsors, and will be perceived as in urgent need to undergo structural reform.
Obvious signs include the fact that key delivery dates have been repeatedly missed or that there is not enough clarity regarding future delivery dates.
Sometimes signs are subtler or more indirect. Software that continues to throw up P1 bugs despite attempts to stem it or accumulate technical debt is an example of this.
Most often, there is a combination of failure and a loss of trust from stakeholders.
Sometimes, you may not notice any symptoms at all, such as a succession or departures of project managers, or key positions that are vacant or unclear.
Only when you, the project professional who is chosen to “shake up the team” or improve governance, realize that the carefully chosen euphemisms you use during your recruitment cover up an infuriating history and a stakeholder group collectively frothing at their mouths, does the reality begin dawning.
You suspect that you should have negotiated risk money on top your rate within days of starting because you seem to be walking a tightrope while spinning broken plates. You are actually managing a Recovery Project, which is like a lead weight in the gut.
Welcome to the Theatre of the Absurd
“Saying the impossible, imagining what is impossible, and still making sense.”
One thing that might be obvious to you is that no matter how much direction you were given by your manager to recover, many people in the know won’t recognize the project as failing or failing. They resort to linguistic contortions in order to avoid describing it that way.
A Recovery Project is often plagued by denial. Although stakeholder trust is often severely eroded and the project teams may know that change is necessary, the root causes of project failure are usually complex interactions between stakeholders, project teams, and (where applicable), supplier interests and behaviours. Many explanations for project failure are simplistic. They include blame for the previous project manager being “too laid back”, the adoption/rejection Agile (delete as applicable), or stakeholders constantly changing their minds/pulling towards different directions.
This culture of denial is common in areas where there is a belief that the best way forward is to focus more on the “low-hanging silver bullets” than the structural, multi-dimensional issues you suspect are the real problem. There is already a disconnect.
These quick-fix solutions are often described by sentences that include the word “just”, such as “We just need a better strategy” or “We just have to be tough with the supplier”.
Listening to a sponsor or senior stakeholder speak in these terms will make you realize that you will have to convince them to take several bitter pills. You will also have to explain how chasing low-hanging silver bullets won’t help the project turn around. Your task list has become a maze of virulent cancerous blobs.
Recovery projects are fraught with passions so don’t be surprised if you encounter Governance by Harassment. A Steering Group, or forum like one, provides a recurring opportunity for one or more members to pursue an agenda that is designed to disengage the members from the delivery team and deprive them of the devolved authority.