It can be a sticky situation to rescue a project that is struggling to meet the business needs. Here are some quick tips on how to ensure that the process is as productive as possible and you get that project back on track quickly.


  1. Be sure to avoid the blame game, but know how you got here. You must use an honest self-assessment approach with the team to understand why the project is where it is and how it got off track. If you don’t, the team could repeat the same mistakes on this project or future projects. We must learn from the process.
  2. Revisit the project’s Why statement. Why is this project being done and what IMPACT do we expect to achieve via this project? Getting clear on the purpose of the project and intended goals has the benefit of resetting everyone. Make sure they all get it.
  3. Get clear on ROI. Evaluate if the project can possibly meet the intended outcomes for an appropriate return on investment (ROI). It doesn’t make sense to continue a project if it doesn’t have a chance of meeting those original goals.
  4. Determine if the original goals are still valid. Sometimes projects go off track because the goals that were originally defined are no longer the right direction. The team begins to shift the focus, add new scope or require other changes that are more likely to meet the best outcomes. This can be a good thing, but requires you to reassess scope, schedule, cost, and ROI so that you can properly ascertain IMPACT.
  5. Get everyone involved. Look for feedback from everyone involved in the project, not just primary stakeholders. Sometimes the best insights come from those that can look at the bigger picture, provide an outsiders perspective, or are not too emotionally tied to the project.
  6. Make it realistic. Ensure that the new project constraints (time, scope, cost) are developed with ALL the stakeholders expected to do the work. Often, the project didn’t have realistic timelines, scope, and budget to begin with because the right people (aka the ones doing the work) weren’t included in the planning process. Don’t make that mistake twice.
  7. Hold people accountable. Establish an accountability model that allows for everyone to actively commit in writing and verbally to what they will accomplish and hold everyone accountable publicly to keeping their commitments.
  8. Mean what you say. Create consequences for lack of adherence to the agreed-upon constraints and commitments. The worst thing we can do as leaders to degrade our authority is to shy away from creating real and meaningful consequences to undesirable behaviors.
  9. Act as a fiduciary. Don’t be afraid to shut down the projects that will not meet their IMPACT requirements. If the return on investment is just not there, don’t let emotion or the fact that this is someone’s pet project keep you and the team from doing the right thing. It’s on you to ensure that you clearly align the business outcomes desired with project outcomes you create.
  10. Take the time to do it right this time. If the project skipped some important process steps along the way, now is the time to correct them. Don’t have a clear business case? You MUST have one before you even try to rescue the project. Don’t have solid requirements? Well, then, of course, you aren’t seeing the intended benefits…you don’t know what they are! Schedule unrealistic? Get the right players around the table so this schedule is attainable.

When you take on the role of Project Rescuer, you must remember to assess the current situation unemotionally and that your role is to represent best interests of the company, not the project. It can be utterly exhausting on everyone to drag along through a project that shouldn’t be happening or is so far off track, that they’ve lost sight of the purpose. When you get this right, everyone wins. This is your chance to set this project team up for success. Go be an IMPACT Driver!

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