The 3 Things You Have to do to Rescue a Project

The 3 Things You Have to do to Rescue a Project

A rescue is required when a project was meant to go some place – let’s say from A to B – but it actually went some place else – C.

A rescue is usually triggered when somebody – for example, a boss, a stakeholder, the project manager – realizes that the project is nowhere near where it was expected to be. This is not just some kind of medium-sized slip that could possibly be fixed but that the project is actually wildly adrift. This often occurs quite late in what was the original project schedule.

A fairly standard knee-jerk reaction to this is to tell everybody on the team to work harder and longer hours. However, by this time, the project is usually way past the point where that would have any kind of value. ‘When you’re in a hole, stop digging,’ the saying goes, and so it is here.

To rescue the project at this point there are three things you have to do:

  1. Understand what went wrong
  2. Communicate this to everybody involved
  3. Fix it.

In terms of the diagram above, this means:

  1. Why did it go to C?
  2. Communicate this to everybody involved
  3. Make a plan to go from C back to B again – and allowing for the possibility that B may have moved by this time, let’s call the new goal B*. So – make a plan to go from C to B*.


1. Why did it go to C?

We have a tool called the PSI (Probability of Success Indicator) that enables you to do this very quickly by checking for what can be thought of as the ‘vital signs’ of the project. Email us for the free paper, How To Assess a Project in Five Minutes that describes this tool.


2. Communicate this to everybody involved

A rescue is a situation that calls for diplomacy, sensitivity but also straight talking. That can be a tough trick to pull off.

If you are the rescuer, the worse thing you can do is come along with an ‘I’m here to sort out the mess you’ve created’ attitude. It won’t win you friends or cooperation.

The best thing is for the people who took the project to C – let’s call them ‘the team’ to figure out for themselves why this happened.

The PSI is the perfect tool for doing that. You sit down with the team and explain how the PSI works and then ask them to score their own project. Very quickly then, they can see where the issues in their project are. You have to say nothing, pass no judgment – they do that themselves.


3: Make a plan to go from C to B*

Our free paper, How To Run Successful Projects (email us for a copy) – tells you how to do that (if you don’t already know).

Critically, the plan you come up with needs to fix the issues that you identified in 2 above.