Let’s face the reality: not all software development projects are successful! Statistics about failed IT projects is just mind-blowing (I know you have read this before so I will not repeat this again). The question is what do we do when everything is about to fall apart. When your client is threatening to throw you and your team into jail (yes this has happened to me). Can the leader save the situation?
Crisis is the best time for changes. From my own experience, I know that there are tons of tricks that can be made to save a project. If you are bold enough, disciplined and ready for changes, no crisis is hopeless. Here are some ways out!
- Assess. Change.
If the project is bogged down, moving forward absent-mindedly on autopilot is the worst solution. Never be afraid to pause the project for a short while for the purpose of doing an assessment. I have seen how successful it can be; although, it’s really challenging when you have a tough and angry client pressing on you. Trust me, it will work wonders.
- Conduct an Audit
When a project hits the crisis stage, it is likely that the client is already fuming and it is common to expect accusations of non-delivery, incompetence, and the shifting of blame. An audit exercise (i.e. detailed analysis of the contract scope, requirements specification, project deliverables, financial standing etc) at this point allows you to explicitly show your client what your team has done, what is left to be done and the plan for moving forward. It brings objectivity to the situation and provides a solid basis for both parties to decide what to do in order to move on.
- Refresh Your Team!
At this stage, your team is probably weary. They could be completely stuck and close to a burnout with no hope of a solution. 2 different approaches are helpful here:
- Fresh positive eyes! Bring in an independent team to work with your team.
- Change the environment! Send your team to a remote location and ask them to come back with a solution. Don’t let them be disturbed. They need a calm positive environment to find the best solution.
- Don’t throw more resources into the task
There is always a temptation to throw more powers into the task to make it go faster. In fact, the solution is the opposite. Don’t be afraid to reduce the team!
A bad developer could have a very negative impact on a project. He also may be the one who discourages or moans. Showing the door is always hard, but to prevent the ship from sinking, sailors lighten the vessel by throwing lumber overboard.
- Win Back the Client’s Trust
The communication between business and IT teams must be honest. Never leave your client in the dark when something goes wrong! If he feels it smells suspicious, he will try to interfere with the process of development and force things to be done the way he believes is the best. Honestly let your client know the state of the things.
- If you have failed and under-delivered, take responsibility.
- Never try to redeem yourself by overpromising. You must find a win-win solution that will satisfy the client, and won’t be undoable for your team.
- Ask yourself what’s right and wrong and do what’s right.
- If you think the changes must come from the client’s side, say it.
- Don’t try to manipulate the client as this will result in a backlash.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
This may sound contradicting to the previous point, but the client is not always right. If you are honest with yourself, you will know when you are right. Do what’s fair. If you see that the client doesn’t honor the contract and tries to squeeze from you more than what was agreed or raises unfair claims, say it. Don’t let the client push you over.
Have the faith that if you do what is right and with the best interest of your client, things will turn out fine.
- Maintain a Positive Outlook
Composure and a positive fighting spirit are must-haves for a leader. You must guide your guys through ups and downs till final victory.
- Be honest with your team about harsh facts, but radiate the confidence that you will succeed in the end. Never stretch the truth because your body language and attitude will reveal the real situation anyway and sow distrust in your team.
- If you are tired and feel hopeless, take a day off from all commitments. Do something funny or find solitude. When you are refreshed, it’s much easier to think clearly.
- If you lose composure and panic, everyone will panic. It’s your job to take a step back to see the opportunities before the situation becomes uncontrolled.
Every crisis has the potential to breathe new life into your project if you learn how to deal with shockwaves! The worst thing a leader can do in a crisis is to hide (even when your client has the power to take your passport and throw you into jail!). The faster we admit the problem, the higher the chances that the project will survive.
It will always take some painstaking efforts to have priorities and timelines under control. The leader must be able to see the situation clearly. Being honest and aware of the real state of things are keys to turning around from a project crisis.
“nothing can stop a man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude”
Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Stay confident and try the things above. It has worked wonders for me.
Please share your thoughts and experiences. What more can we do when things go wrong