How to Recover a Troubled Program

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According to LeRoy Ward (Executive Vice President at ESI), there is only one thing worse than receiving bad news. It’s being told late about bad news.
The webinar ‘Managing and Saving Programmes in a Changing World’ covers five steps to project recovery.
Ward began by explaining what a “troubled programme” is. Program management can go wrong for many reasons.
Deterioration of the business case: The program started with a solid business case, but it is no longer scalable.
Evolution of stakeholders: People change, and new leaders change the direction of a program.
Technical failure: This creates a risk for program integration as the building you are creating might not fit in the organization’s architecture.
Resource collapse: This can be in the form either of strikes or the departure of a key resource.

Concentrate on gaining control
Focus on the right issue. The wrong issue will not help you catch up and finish your project on time. The right issue is how to finish the project on time and gain real benefits without wasting your time.
You must regain control. Control refers to the program’s scope, dates, and roles that were lost during execution or planning. This can be avoided by making large, targeted changes quickly.
This contradicts the advice Scott Berkun offers in Making Things Happen. He warns against making large changes to a project, as it can cause the project to drift off track and make it take longer for you to see what you have accomplished.
You then over-correct and make another big change. Then you are just bouncing from one crisis to the next because you can’t keep the project on track. Don’t make big changes to a project that isn’t going well.
Problems facing failing programs
Ward identified several problems with failing programs.
Program managers lack objectivity, which makes it difficult to complete an accurate assessment of program issues. External assessment teams can provide objectivity. As needed, bring in technical experts.
Stakeholders will pressure you to agree to a new schedule. It will be extremely helpful to measure progress in small steps.
It takes time to determine how much work is left. To make accurate forecasts, it is necessary to know how far the original estimates were.
It is important to maintain progress while planning for recovery. This will require additional temporary resources. The program manager should oversee the current workflow and do all the work necessary to recover. This is no easy task!

Ward warned against declaring victory too soon. To prove that something is turning around, it takes sustained control. It takes teamwork to change a program and keep it moving in a positive direction.
To fix the problems caused by troubled programs, you will need a project recovery plan.
The five-step plan for project recovery
Here’s how to get out of trouble using the five-step ESI process. This approach assumes that you were parachuted into a program that is failing.
If you’re trying to save a project, you can adapt the steps.
Phase of Assessment
Step 1: Define Charter
Duration: 1-2 Days
This officially authorizes the creation of an assessment and project recovery effort. It gives the assessment and recovery leader the authority to complete the activities required to create an assessment plan.
Discuss the charter with the sponsor or steering committee. The charter should include:
Program history and sensitivities (although this is something I would not write down).
Assessment approach: How many people will you interview in individual meetings or in groups?