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Turn Arounds and Project Management Templates

December 20 2007

Project Management Templates– Turn Around Failing Projects

Most Project Managers have been there, when they don’t use project management templates. You’re assigned a project that’s going off the rails and you’re expected to turn it around. Where do you start? Why is it failing? What should you do to get it back on track?

People who exceed in these roles are called “turn-around specialists” and it’s a discipline of its own. Yet a Project Manager is often asked to do it. So we thought we’d offer some tips and advice here, on:

Turning around Failing Projects

Great– you’ve been assigned to a new project, but things are already going crazy. Your team are dissatisfied, your deliverables are late and your budget has already been exceeded. Your Project Sponsor is unhappy and no-one really knows who the customer is. Where do you start?


The first thing to do is to find the documented vision for the project, go to the Sponsor and confirm that it’s still accurate. If there is no vision, then you need to create one pretty darned quickly. Identify the key project stakeholders and get them to agree on exactly what the project must achieve, by when and whom for. Only with a solid vision will you have a clear stake in the ground from which to move forward.


Next, you need to find out what’s going on. Why are the team unhappy? Why is everything late etc. Identify the top 10 things that need to be fixed to get the project back on track. Don’t look back, only look forward. Use Project Management Templates to manage this.

Don’t do a post mortem. Instead make it a short, sharp review that identifies the key issues affecting the project. Involve your team as much as possible, as you need their buy-in.

Quick Wins

You need to build confidence with your Sponsor and more importantly, your team. Choose a couple of issues that you know you can solve immediately, and once solved, communicate it to your team.

Plan of Attack

Only now, will you have a good feel for the project issues and what it will take to resolve them. You can now create a plan of attack. Identify the actions to be taken by all of the team, to deliver the project vision successfully. We say “all” of the team, as you need to gain the buy-in of your entire team to get the show on the road.

Then take your plan to your Sponsor and get their support. Don’t be afraid to ask for more money, time or resource as this is the time to ask for it. If you ask now while you’re fresh in the role, it won’t reflect on you. Don’t wait until you’re near the end of the project before you ask.


With your Project Sponsors support, get the project team together, for a single communications event. Tell them what you’ve found, what needs to be fixed and how you plan to do it. Tell them about the quick wins that have already been made and how you know that if everyone focuses on the plan ahead, you can deliver successfully.


Set clear milestones that everyone understands and note these in your project management template. Put the milestones and plan of attack on a wall chart to make them visible. Then meet regularly to discuss their progress.

Love, Hugs and Tears

Then love your high performing staff, hug your underperformers who show promise, and shed no tears at having to change staff that show no signs of buying in to your action plan. It’s onwards and upwards!

Want Project Management Templates that help you get projects back on track? Download a free trial edition of MPMM now.