Tag: recovery plan

A difficult or just messy project?

A difficult project is usually a result of external influences and circumstances, beyond project team control.

Chaotic processes, blurred roles and responsibilities between team members, unrelated and stand alone resource-consuming activities, scattered resources make a messy project.

Mess is usually self-created and contributed to by team members in a laisser-faire type of project management. “Do not do today what can be done tomorrow” leisurely style.

What can you do if you find yourself in charge of a messy project?

For a “change”, you can create your own MESS:





Measure what can be measured: time to task completion, delivery delays, number and price of units for inputs etc.

Evaluate why is it taking so much time/ resources. Why things do not work in the team. Where is the bottleneck.

Solve things that can be solved quickly, for a team motivation boost.

Submit results to sponsor/client.

Keep doing it until sail is on course.

A project story: a project was dragging its feet for eight months, in a 18 month timeline. It had:

– three team members,

– a beginner project manager, with very little experience and no coaching,

– no activities in sight and lots of email traffic,

– an abundance of frustration between field and headquarter’s team members,

– a client left to wonder why it wanted the services in the first place.

After a quick MESS by the new the project manager, the project was recovered and reached 96% of spending. It delivered the promised on time. The solution was to facilitate the team’s access to inputs (international expertise in this case). The client was happy and asked to continue the collaboration. From MESS to mission accomplished.

What’s your experience with messy projects?

Recovering troubled projects

When I recovered the first project about 15 years ago I did not know this kind of projects are called ‘troubled’. Couple of years latter I enrolled in a training called “Recovering troubled projects’ by PMI where the ‘Aha!” moment descended upon me: “this is what I did! I recovered a troubled project!”

Here are the basic five-step approach, which I tried and tested on numerous projects since then:

Recovering a troubled project requires twice the effort and the commitment on all sides:  the team, the sponsor, the client. It requires trouble-shooters abilities. The project manager will also have to deal with the low-morale of the team, if the team is still there. Or if it’s a new team – unknown dynamics will have to be dealt with.
If you are looking for more inspiration:

Fruits from seeds: life post-projects

Something very special happened about a month ago. I was at an international conference with one of the past project’s partners – the Moldovan Young Lawyers Association. We were invited to speak about what worked and what could have been better in the project’s efforts to build the capacity of the organisation we supported.

The session we had to speak at had a tough moderator. The type who says “No” to 9 out of 10 questions. Anyway, my co-speaker asked for the floor. “No”, the moderator said turning his head towards the next scheduled speaker. “It’s only 20 seconds”, he insisted, and lowered to pick something from his bag. He stood up and started with “I would like to thank Oxana…,” and handed me a shining certificate of appreciation. Big time surprize. “I hope someone took a picture” said the moderator loudly, impressed with the gesture and timing. I was and I still am immensely touched. Did I at least say “Thank you!”?

The certificate says “in recognition of the efficient support”. I only did my job: couple of meetings, several phone calls and a dozen of emails. Some paperwork. In fairness, this partner and his colleagues did all the work. Moreover, with the contacts we helped them get, they moved their organisation forward and became members of the European Young Bar Association. And that is my biggest project manager’s dream: see the fruits from the seeds we planted. A life post-project to continue and to last. That is my motivation shot. Thank you, Moldovan Young Lawyers Association! You are really the best and deserve the very best!

A month latter, another investment in relations from last year cascaded to a response visit from Gdansk lawyers to Cahul lawyers. Another fruit from seeds planted in support of regional initiatives, to be taken to a new level. Thank you, Gdansk Bar and Cahul Bar! May this continue to the benefit of all of you.

“We do not choose our clients” was one of my early professional life advices I got. And we rarely know the soil on which the projects plant seeds. But with joint hard work, devotion, care and Sun from fun, they grow roots and stems, leafs and flowers and eventually deliver fruits for us all to enjoy.

Human resources management dilemmas: a story

Everyone was pushing for his dismissal. His client, the project sponsor, the implementing agency. All except for me. I’ve dragged on the file for four months, for as long as I could, given the pressure from all sides.

A letter from the client to the project sponsor put an end to his contract. We settled for a mutually agreed termination of the contract and a bit of extra paid days.1.4

In the three weeks that followed from his resignation letter, he displayed the model of best professional behaviour. He was cooperating in his hand-over to a remarkable extent. I tried my best to respond to all his e-mails (up to seven a day some days), his telephone calls. I knew it was important to him. To talk to and to listen to him.

There was no blame. Just a set of circumstances.

A farewell coffee, a farewell note, cc-ed to entire team and a recommendation letter. A warm shake of hands and an eye contact to last throughout years. The least I could have done.

I often missed his honesty, integrity, eloquent communication style and a sense of humour to envy. Rare qualities these days.

My takeaway lesson from this is simple: As project managers, we need to look beyond strict client-consultant relations and understand the numerous complexities involved. Thanks to this mindfulness, I would like to believe, he was fully supportive of all management interventions that were required.


his last e-mail to me                                                                                                                                   10 June 20xx

I hesitate to say, “You’re an absolute darling”, for obvious reasons … but you are.