Not all projects are completed successfully (or even just completed). Either the project runs out of funds, gets put on hold, or is such a mess that everyone would rather walk away than finish it. But sometimes, organizations look back at these dead projects and wonder why didn’t we get this done?
That’s when project managers get the dreaded request: to breathe some life into this dead project and see if you can turn it into something useful. You could say no, of course, but that might reflect badly on you (and may even cost you your job).
So how can you make the best of a bad situation and pull a working project out of your hat?
1. Review the Objectives
The first thing you need to check is what the project was trying to accomplish. Even if the objectives are clear-cut, do they still align with the organization’s current goals? If not, it may be an excellent opportunity to revisit the objectives and scope and make the project relevant again.
2. Check the Foundations
If you’re going to be completing this dead project, you need to know what you’re building on. Does the previous work still hold up to current standards, or is it a mess that needs a lot of fixing? The answer will determine how quickly your team can get into the groove and start work in earnest, affecting your timeline and project budget.
3. Do a Team Inspection
It’s best to let your team see what they’ll be working with before you actually start the project. Your team specialists might still be able to fix something that looks irreparable to you, and vice versa.
This advice applies even if you’re using the same team that worked on the original project. They probably won’t remember what they did before and will have to reorient themselves. Also, their skills may have improved since then, and their opinions of their old work might have changed.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Start Over
If the project is too much of a mess, it may be easier and cheaper to just pave things over and start from scratch. This way, you can get rid of all the harmful project management processes and use methods that will get better results.
These tips won’t be able to guarantee success: some projects just deserve to die, no matter how much money management pours into them. But at least you’ll have a better chance of pulling a live rabbit out of your hat, and not a stuffed dud.