Fascinating presentation last night at the local PMI chapter by Dr. Tom Facklam on rescuing a project at a biotech firm. The company ran into serious problems during Phase III clinical trials of a breast cancer vaccine. This was a real life-or-death situation for the patients, and it also threatened the financial viability of the company.
The key success factors for surviving and resolving this project crisis apply to major problems on other projects:
Create a sense of urgency. Make sure everyone understands that you don’t have time to do things “properly”. Break down standard ways of working and ways of thinking. Fix first, document later.
Reassure the sponsors, customers and other stakeholders that your team can take care of the problem – even if you don’t know what the problem is yet, and if you don’t know how to fix it yet. Keep people (especially executives) from panicking, and secure a mandate to act.
Insist on an open, blameless environment. No witch hunts now or later. Prove to everyone that they can bring up information without repercussions. All that matters is fixing the problem.
Put the customer first. Don't put the customer at risk, don’t hide things from them, don’t try to “protect” them.
Communicate constantly. Be transparent. No spin. Stick to the facts – what you know, what you don’t know, what you are doing about it.
Brainstorm. Encourage people to try things even if it doesn’t make sense. Run multiple concurrent experiments until the data starts to converge on the problems and on solutions.