It’s not unusual for us to get called in to fix a broken project. We’re always happy to help.

And after years of helping businesses with this issue, we’ve learned a few things about broken projects.

These can be on a large or small scale. In most cases, our client has spent money with the intent of reaching a preset goal, but for a multitude of reasons that goal was not achieved.

We are then called in to get the project back on track, and help our client reach their goal.

We’ve found that there are a few important things to keep in mind in order for us to help our clients pick up broken projects quickly and efficiently.

What happened

To fix a problem, we need to know in detail what happened from the beginning. This can be difficult, since people previously involved on the project may be hesitant to divulge information for fear of finger-pointing or receiving blame.

However, this is not the time for accusations. This is the time to lay out a road map of what happened, so we can identify the barriers and work to overcome them.

An easy way to focus the team on the problem at hand, and not on specific people, is to have each person discuss the tasks they performed, what went well, and what could have been done better.

To get people talking openly, it’s often helpful to have the project manager or lead start the discussion listing what they did, what went well, and what they could have done better.

What needs to be done

Often, our clients have a clear vision of their end goal. However, sometimes on a large IT project, the vision becomes blurry. This can be due to unforeseen impacts of the project, or differing expectations from various stakeholders.

Whatever the reason, we meet with the team and all stakeholders to ensure that everyone understands the project finish line.

To stay on task as the project starts moving forward, teams can adopt the stoplight description for tasks. When the team meets for project updates, each stakeholder can list the status of their task as a green, yellow, or red light. A green light means that the task is completed or being completed. A yellow light indicates that there are some gaps or challenges with a specific task. A red light means that a task is at a full stop.

When these updates are given, the team can compile a list of all the tasks with a yellow or red light status. Then, using all the resources available to the team, they can begin working through that list to mitigate those challenges.

Keys to reaching the end goal

We have found some key points are especially helpful to remember when completing a project that has faced some challenges in the past:

  • Start and finish something before adding on to it.
  • Appoint someone on staff as the project manager.
  • Have a secondary project manager for oversight and accountability.
  • Communicate often.
  • Agree on a system for approvals to give checks and balances for the project.
  • Set expectations with both developers and end users.
  • Avoid best case and worst case scenarios. Reality is usually somewhere in between.

Rest assured that, with patience, broken projects can certainly be fixed.

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