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Home > Services > Programme Turnaround
When a project or programme is in distress, the situation is highly pressurised. There is a lot at stake and not much seems to be heading in the right direction. We are committed to helping our clients with their toughest challenges and we are often the go-to people for our clients when projects or programmes go bad.
We have been involved in many turnaround situations over the years and we know what it takes to bring a project or programme back from the brink and set it on course for success. This is hugely challenging, yet it is one of the most satisfying things we do for our clients.
Almost every major programme sets out with the best of intentions. However, it is not uncommon for them to go critically off course.
The bigger, more complex a project is the more likely it will have difficulties, tensions, hiccups, setbacks. But when do the natural bumps and grinds of a big project turn into something serious enough to require a significant course correction or turnaround? There are some telltale signs:
These are some of the classic signals that a project is not in control and on course –correction or turnaround may be necessary. Understanding the root causes and helping you to address them is what we focus on when we take on such a task.
Our starting point is to work out exactly what the truth of the project is, empirically – by gathering evidence rather than just opinion, and by leveraging our experience of similar situations elsewhere. For example, a project may be running hard towards a launch date but may be struggling to close out the last mile of testing or business acceptance. Where exactly are they? Is it a case of battening down the hatches and keeping going, or is this a sign of a more sophisticated problem that requires a different way of thinking.
If you’re making decisions based on the wrong view of where you are, or simply keep doing what you are doing, you are likely to compound the problem.
That’s why it is so important to form an evidence-based view of where you actually are. It’s a critical first step that gives you not only a very clear sense of where you are but also a common set of evidence around which people can gather and start to rebuild a shared sense of team and purpose. An independent empirical reference point is for everyone.
We then help you to align the project sponsors and executive team to acknowledge where we are, so we can start to have constructive realistic conversations about priorities. This often involves uncomfortable trade-offs between scope, time and money. We are very sensitive to commitments that may have been made previously and work with you to reach balanced decisions based on options grounded in reality, and we will help you bring sponsors and executives on the journey.
Once we are clear on what’s important and in turn what we are now aiming for, we can help you organise around that. This may involve tuning the existing organisation to get the right people in the right roles, or it may involve a more fundamental organisational change involving going back to first principles around capability and accountability. This will typically involve re-evaluating, and in some cases restructuring, supplier relationships and commercial arrangements.
Then it’s a matter of quickly and effectively building a team - tight structure, strong capabilities, crystal clear accountability, common goals and robust leadership are the secrets here.
Regardless of scale, we aim to break down the complexity of the situation and identify a set of relatively simple metrics and steps that everyone can understand and align around – from the team on the ground to business and IT sponsors. This common view of progress and success helps to drive accountability and keep focus on the important things.
The biggest unplanned cost on a programme is slippage in the dates. It’s a brutal example of the adage that time is money. So it goes without saying that the faster things can be brought back under control, the better. We typically bring a very small team, maybe two or three people, to take on key roles. We’ll break down the problem, help the executive team understand and align around the options and agree a way forward, and refocus the team. We often also get involved in very targeted short term roles to issue-bust specific gnarly challenges facing the project.
For a relatively small cost you get a big return from this kind of involvement.
“When a project is in distress, you have to seek evidence and have empathy. You need to form a clear empirical understanding of where the project actually is and what choices exist. Alongside this, you must have sensitivity and strong leadership skills to gather and galvanise the team for success. It’s about the head and the heart.
Jonathan KennedyPartnerContact Jonathan Kennedy
Projects fail for many different reasons. So how can IT managers spot a troubled project? And what steps can they take to support the turnaround process?
Here are some examples of our client work:
We reviewed a major IT programme and then lead the implementation of the turnaround activities.