How to Save a Failing Business Project


Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you’ve planned beforehand—your business project is hitting rocky waters and is in danger of failure. A business project can fail for many reasons. Sometimes the team doesn’t have the skills needed for it. Sometimes you’re understaffed or underfunded. Sometimes the processes set up before the project aren’t thorough enough.

Before giving up a project for a loss, ask yourself this question—is the project worth saving? Not every project is meant to be, and sometimes it makes sense to cut losses. However, some projects have enough long-term potential to be worth saving even amid great challenges. Here are several ways you can recover a failing business project.

Stop and Think

A project about to fail can be a very emotional moment for everyone involved, so make sure to step back and take an objective look at the project. Letting the project fail may seem like the worst-case scenario, but be careful to examine all elements of the project before you make a decision. Halt all work on the project until you’ve decided how to proceed.

You might be going down the wrong path, so continuing that simply because you want the project to succeed may not make anything any better. The breather period is the perfect opportunity to get everyone involved and have an honest discussion about what’s going wrong and where to go from here. You might find some unexpected answers.

Identify the Problems

It’s important in this stage of the process that everyone knows they can be honest and open. You want a clear view of all the problems that are occurring. This requires a thorough examination and will need everyone involved to be ready to accept their role in the project’s struggles. This includes the people in charge.

Once the problems are identified, you’ll have the chance to propose solutions that may keep the project afloat. It’s best to tackle the problems one by one, since a solution that works for one may not work for the other. If something can’t be resolved at a reasonable cost, it may be worth revising the project to get around a frustrating element.

Get Organized

One of the most common causes for a project being on the brink of failure is because no one knows what other team members are doing. You have projects where everyone has their own piece of the puzzle but no one is cooperating. The goals aren’t being met, there are a lot of wasted resources and labor, and things quickly go off the rails.

To avoid this, you may want to consider centralizing things through online project management tools. APM, or agile project management, strategies can help you streamline work on the project and automate many of your processes to keep everyone on the same page. When everyone understands what they’re supposed to be doing and when the project moves more smoothly

Reassign Tasks

Saving a project from failure will involve some hard decisions about the staff. Even a talented team member might not be an ideal fit for every task. This is where honesty comes into play. If your team feels comfortable working with you, they’ll be more ready to admit when their current position isn’t serving their skillset well.

Once you know a team member needs to be reassigned, you’ll be better able to find the right person for that role. It’s important to support your team as they find the right role for each of them. Emphasize that they didn’t fail in their task, it’s just a change meant to help everyone find the role where they can best succeed.

Give Yourself Time

Saving your project will involve some tricky decisions, and one of them may be changing the timeline for the project. No team wants to let people know that the project they invested in or pre-ordered is off-schedule, but it’s better to deliver an excellent project late than to rush something out the door. The key is finding the schedule that works for your team while keeping things close to schedule.

When breaking the news of a delay, it’s important to be honest and humble. Explain to your supporters why the delay happened and how this extra time will result in a better project. Don’t try to meet old deadlines and fall short—let everyone involved know about schedule changes as quickly as possible so they can adjust their plans.

Transform Failure into Success

No one wants to see their project in the danger zone, but it happens to the best. Knowing how to course-correct has saved some of the world’s biggest companies. Follow these simple steps and join them on the way back up.

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