There are many well-established processes to successfully manage projects. Sadly, real-life projects do not have the ideal working conditions, and managers occasionally realize midway that they might not meet the required delivery date or they might overshoot the budget. Projects fail; this fact must be accepted. It is important to know how to get them to fail fast, so that there is minimal wastage and enough time to turn things around; recovery can be started right away.
1. Speak Up on Time
As a project manager, you monitor the progress of the project at regular intervals. As you track important metrics like scope, budget and schedule against pre-defined baselines, you might be aware that the project is not going to meet the business needs. Rather than asking the team members to continue working, highlight the issues to senior management; they will take a decision whether to call off the project, start it from scratch or take some other course of action.
2. Assess Risk Early
Often, with so many things to get done in a project, risks are overlooked, neglected or kept aside for dealing with at a later date. But these risks are the early signs of failure and can save precious time and money. Keep a sharp eye out for the smallest risk warnings and assess these thoroughly.
3. Plan Work with Shorter Execution Time
Failing fast is an important part of software projects following the agile delivery cycle. In this approach, work is divided into small releases and enhanced in iterations. The failure of one release or iteration will not affect the others to a large extent. The amount of rework is reduced and time and money are saved. This principle can be applied to any kind of project, outside of the software domain.
4. Be Prepared and Fully Aware
When presenting your views on the project’s failure or imminent failure, make sure you have all the facts. Complete data, along with valid reasons to back up all actions and decisions, will convey to your superiors that you are doing your job well and things are beyond your control. Being prepared will also give you the required self-confidence to face the situation.
5. Document and Share Lessons Learnt
Once the decision has been made to get the project failed, do not forget all about it and move on to other projects. You need to learn from the mistakes made by you, the team members, senior management, or even the client. By discussing these, you will be better prepared to handle future projects and avoid going down the same path.
6. Do Not Take it Personally
Even though you may see sense in all the above points, getting the project to fail fast might still seem like a black mark on your professional record. There is absolutely no need to feel this way. Projects come and go; life goes on. Give it your best shot; if you can’t manage to save it, pass on control to the concerned authorities and concentrate on other work.
Another name for admitting to failure early and dealing with it in the right way is success. If project managers follow these 6 tips to failing fast, they will manage to complete the project as expected and earn the respect of the client and the organization.