Project Recovery MUST beat the odds

Predictions of failure rule the industry.  Any number of organizations and people look at trends and willingly, no gleefully, declare why projects will fail and, in general, I agree.  Lets face it, most projects aren't paid on delivery.  Nope, it's by the hour ... seems like a conflict of interest to me.  Once a project delivers the money stops ... so why not let it go for a while?  Why not let the customer request things that will stretch the timeline.  After all it would only be doing what they asked.  Of course that's not fair.  Many very well intentioned project teams strive to deliver even though they are hourly.  They understand the basic truth... for a team that delivers, there is a nearly endless supply of work. 

But back to those predictions of failure.  Most analysis are the result (and I know I am over simplifying here) of linear math.  You know, if it takes 2 people 2 weeks to do X then the same people will take 4 weeks to do 2X.  Simple, logical, and generally true.  It's the "generally" part that bothers me.  The goal of a good recovery effort is to beat the bell curve.  To become the statistical anomaly that, against historical trends and linear predictions, delivers.  A few examples;

  • Continuous evaluation of project practices allows the team to leverage what is working and remove what isn't.

  • Merciless scope management focuses the team and the customer on what is needed first, defering other requirements for a future release.

  • Utilizing the best talent reduces day to day management, allows for the team to self-manage, and leaves traditional managers the freedom to continuously seek enabling changes.

Best practices, it seem, are not always the best practices for your team, at this moment, on this project.  Process, particularly  prescriptive process, are all about statistics.  If 80% of successful projects have a declared methodology and process then one should have a declared methodology and process.  It only makes sense right?  What about the other 20%?  IT seems that without a declared methodology and process 20% also succeed.  Doing the well known right thing doesn't guarantee success it merely (or significantly) increases your odds.

Done with forethought and clarity, choosing practices that fit your specific needs but are contrary to, or completely outside of, "industry best practices" can be the very difference between successful recovery and becoming another part of the failure statistics.   "Best practices" are, by definition, for the middle 80% of the bell curve.  Recovery projects live and die out on the 5% fringe where historical statistics focus on why the failures failed, not how to succeed.

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