Strategies For Project Recovery


Balance. Courtesy Steven Guzzardi

There may come a time in a given project when you realize that it is in trouble, unable to meet its deadlines, targets, budgets, quality standards, or client expectations. Success or failure at that point, will depend on an ability to discover and surface the underlying problems or challenges which may be attributing to the project’s poor performance or outlook, and take the necessary corrective or remedial actions.

Recently, we were asked to get involved with and provide additional oversight on a major construction project, after the client recognized that it was considerably behind schedule. After a few weeks of review and analysis, it became evident that the project was certainly suffering from a number of interpersonal, organizational, and managerial issues. Of those that we could share with you, there was;

  • Poor project governance, demonstrated through ineffective leadership, limited team communication, poor decision-making, conflicts of interest, politics, and minimal involvement from the current Project Manager in the coordination of key or pivotal activities.
  • Non-adherence by some project team members to established policies and procedures, particularly in the areas of procurement, site security, resource utilization, consistent or timely reporting, and documentation.
  • A clear lack of prioritization of the construction activities which sat along the project’s critical path or had a significant number of dependencies.
  • Inadequate resources on site such as labour and equipment, and the conflicts which often arose over their utilization and deployment.
  • Improper planning which yielded a construction schedule which lacked the necessary deliverables, milestones, details, dependencies, and understanding of the full scope of work involved.
  • Minimal communication and reinforcement of the project's schedule, milestones, and expectations of performance among key stakeholders.

Following discussions with key persons, we proposed and have started to implement the following major strategies for a successful project recovery or turnaround;

  • Improved Coordination and Communication: Here, we sought to focus on and foster more open communication through the clarification of expectations and performance, and rebuilding commitment from key stakeholders, through more rapid approvals and sign-offs from the client, regular team and site meetings to discuss and address resourcing and technical issues, project reporting, document updates, and a greater level of engagement and participation from all team members.
  • Re-planning The Project: Given the current delays, client concerns, and prevailing project environment, meetings were held with key stakeholders to review, modify, and approve a revised construction programme which maintained the same completion date and was equally attainable. The programme more accurately reflected the overall scope of work, design documents, client requirements, and specifications through increased detail, compressed activity durations, and modifications to the sequencing or scheduling of work.
  • Adding and Removing Resources: Efforts were made to quickly reorganize the project team, reassigning unproductive members and introducing more experienced and capable persons. The introduction of additional sub-contractors and equipment were also done, in keeping with our overarching objective to accelerate progress on site in a significant and measurable way. 

Other minor strategies included improvements to the processes and systems being used, expansion of the procurement personnel and acceleration of their efforts given the revised programme, incentives for consistent and sustainable performance by sub-contractors, and extending working hours.

When faced with a troubled project, the first thing to do is to accept that there is a problem and quickly identify the factors which led to its creation. Following this, formulate and implement the actions which should immediately be taken to address the underlying issues, and regularly reassess the success of the strategies or initiatives to ensure that the project continues to proceed in a desirable manner and in accordance with the budget, timelines, quality standards, and client expectations.