Monday, October 07, 2019

The Project Recovery Model – Mandate

The Project Recovery Model – Mandate
This is the third article in a series on the Project Recovery Model™, a proven approach for bringing troubled projects back to success. The first two articles introduced the model and looked at recognizing projects in trouble. This article will be a deep dive into the Mandate concept of the model. This should be the first step after recognizing and agreeing that a project needs recovery.

The purpose of a mandate is simple: to obtain executive support for a project recovery attempt by appointing a project recovery manager and releasing budget for such an attempt.

This is the single most valuable action executives can take after recognizing a project is in trouble.

Approve funding to bring in a qualified person from outside the project and give him/her the mandate to recover the project. The people that are part of the project are too much involved and invested to distance themselves enough to see the problem issues and face the project's reality.

Project Recovery Manager vs. Project (Recovery) Manager

In most project recovery situations, the project sponsor and stakeholders will not trust the current project manager to fix the project. The stigma surrounding him or her undermines any trust. This frequently culminates with the customer demanding a new project manager.

This means that, besides the project recovery manager, you will also need a new project manager.

Yes, these are two different roles. Not necessarily two different persons.

You could give the project recovery manager the role of project manager as well. I call this dual role a project (recovery) manager. You could also have one person with the role of project recovery manager and another with the role of project manager.

What works best depends on the size and situation of the project.

It is safe to say that in the first few weeks it makes sense to keep the existing project manager in his/her role whilst the project recovery manager starts reviewing the project.

Taking over a troubled project is not the same as starting up a new project. Project recovery managers must have a good understanding of what they are about to inherit, including high levels of stress.

Troubled projects usually come with:

> A burned-out team
> An emotionally drained team
> Poor morale
> An exodus of the talented team members that are always in high demand elsewhere
> A team that may have a lack of faith in the recovery process
> Pissed-off customers
> Nervous management
> Invisible sponsorship and governance
> Either invisible or highly active stakeholders

Project managers that do not understand what is involved in the recovery of a troubled project can make matters worse by hoping for a miracle and allowing the “death spiral” to continue to a point where recovery is no longer possible.

The project recovery manager can be an internal role, as longs as he/she was not previously involved with the project. But there are a number of good reasons to hire an external project recovery manager.

Authority of the mandate

The authority of the project recovery manager should be defined clearly, and he/she needs strong executive support, especially when the recovery manager is working with the current project manager instead of replacing him/her.

Assigning a project recovery manager to review or recover the project gives implicit authority to the project recovery manager to do whatever is necessary to get the project under control and, then, propose a corrective action plan.

This may include the right to make decisions, realign staff, negotiate alternatives, and reopen issues that may have been closed without proper due diligence. More succinctly, it is the authority to root out the project’s problems and fix them.

This is also an important aspect to calling the project a troubled project — the acknowledgement that action is required. The project will need to change because it is late, over budget, or both. To correct its problems it will need some combination of a later delivery date, higher cost, and smaller scope. By declaring the project in trouble, management gives tacit approval to the action that is required.

Creating a mandate and assigning a project recovery manager, especially one from outside the team, sends a message to the team that this is a serious issue and that it needs to follow the new direction being given.

For a project review, the project recovery manager will require unfettered access to the team, management, and the customer, all of whom must understand they need to be available when needed. In essence, the project recovery manager needs the authority to get on anyone’s calendar.

If that person continues through the analysis and negotiation phases of the recovery process or, even further, through the implementation phase, then the authority must increase. Implementation requires the authority to implement decisions, reallocate resources, purchase capital equipment, negotiate everything from schedules to scope with the customer, and request a budget increase, and management must supply the authority to make these actions happen.

The level of authority given to the recovery manager is paramount. The project recovery manager needs to know how much authority he or she has before the engagement begins so that when boundaries are crossed the project recovery manager knows how thin the ice is. Project recovery managers regularly have to assume authority, often on the first day.

A common problem is that management has neglected to empower the project team to make decisions. This may be real or perceived, but at times, the simplest decision can get the project moving.

In a nutshell: The single most valuable action executives can take after recognizing a project is in trouble is approve funding to bring in a qualified person from outside the project and give him/her the mandate to recover the project.

This is the third article in a series on the Project Recovery Model™, a proven approach for bringing troubled projects back to success. We'll be publishing more deep dives into the individual concepts of this model and their relationships. The next article will discuss React.

Other articles in this series

Links will be added as soon as the corresponding article is published.

> The Project Recovery Model – An Introduction
> The Project Recovery Model – Recognition
> The Project Recovery Model – Mandate
> The Project Recovery Model – React
> The Project Recovery Model – Review
> The Project Recovery Model – Tradeoff & Negotiation
> The Project Recovery Model – Intervention
> The Project Recovery Model – Transition
> The Project Recovery Model – Conclusion
Posted on Monday, October 07, 2019 by Henrico Dolfing