Book 3 - Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure by Todd C. Williams, 2011
Review of this book, Rescue the Problem Project by Todd Williams, seemed to us to be a natural follow-on to our review of the previous of book: 101 Project Management Problems by Tom Kendrick. Indeed, it did not come as a surprise that Tom wrote the Foreword to Todd's book. If the problems are that bad and the project is in imminent danger of complete failure, then stronger medicine is required. In fact, the subtitle of Todd's book says it all: "... Recovering from Project Failure".
Such medicine as Todd prescribes is likely best suited to the large, long and complex project, often swathed in political acrimony, and yoked by the legal terms and interpretations of various contracts and subcontracts. Yet, the advice that he offers follows the same pattern of any typical project life span, in the form: Recognize the problem, Determine the Issues, Analyze and develop a solution, Negotiate new authority, Execute New Plan, and Apply Lessons Learned. With these steps in mind, project practitioners can learn valuable lessons from this book even for projects that are significantly smaller than those categorized above.
Interestingly, Todd observes:
"Of all the goals I went after in life, recovering projects was not one. Instead, recovering 'red' projects came after me. Bosses or cohorts would call about a project in serious need of attention - it was behind schedule, losing money, confronted by an unhappy customer, or experiencing some combination of all three. Many times the conversation simply started with: 'How current is your passport?'.
Soon I was on an airplane. Upon arrival, I would go through contracts and deliverables, talking to everyone on the project to try to understand what was working, what was missing, and what should be happening. I would put together a plan of action and sell it to management. I never really thought of it as a forte or specialization; red projects were the norm, and they needed fixing."
Notwithstanding Todd's modesty, it does take a certain kind of individual to tackle such situations. It needs strict discipline to follow a concerted plan of research; careful analysis and negotiation to extract the optimum solution from the project participants; determination to extract the necessary resources to execute the agreed plan; and the ability to acquire the necessary authority to make it happen. Stressful it may be, but actually it's a lot of fun. After all, and as we've said before, if management and the stakeholders are not willing to go along, they can always be told to look elsewhere.
While the book is valuable in rescuing any large complex project of whatever area of project management application, we rather suspect that the book is written with information technology or high technology projects in mind. That view seems to be supported by the author's background.
About the author
Todd Williams, PMP, is an experienced Senior Project Audit and Recovery Specialist
with over 25 years of international experience in project recovery. His experience
includes managing the development of large-scale business systems integration
initiatives throughout the world. He is an active supporter and contributor to
a number of relevant organizations.
Todd C., PMP, Rescue the Problem Project, AMACOM, NY, 2011, p xix
15. Ibid, p7, according to author Todd Williams, a project is
red when unanticipated and uncontrolled actions cause senior management to determine
that it is performing insufficiently, based on agreed parameters. Being red is
a subjective quality of a project, an unanticipated variance from the project's
current definition based on each organization's rules. Note that the supplier's
portion can be red, while the customer's project is under control, or vice versa.
16. Ibid, fly sheet, back cover.