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Project Management and Project in Trouble Turnaround
Project Management:    

We will act as project managers for projects of all sizes. Our wide PM experience means that we are particularly suited for projects with extraordinary risk profiles.

Turn Around of Projects in Trouble:

Sometimes a project just needs to be turned around. At such times,over powering the project manager role with someone who has more experience and capability then the project would normally require makes good business sense.

Once the project turnaround is complete, it is not necessary to keep such a high power individual in this role. Pairing the turnaround project manager with an individual who can take over the project manager role at that point allows for this. The paired individuall can smoothly transition into the PM role once the project is recovered and stabilized.

To make this happen, the turnaround PM needs two complimentary skills sets: project turnaround and individual coaching/mentoring. The person who is paired with the turnaround PM must be a capable PM under normal circum-stances. By working with the turnaround PM, this person will acquire increased PM competencies. The client organization benefits on two levels. The turnaround happens, and a capable person becomes more capable.

How this works:

Roelf, our Executive Lead, has handled such assignments in the past.

1. The first step involves the kind of project status assessment that was described on the Project in Trouble Assessment page.

2. Roelf and the “paired PM” must be able to work together. Doing so depends on three things. First, the "paired PM's" hard (PM techniques) and soft (individual and group people) must be at a level that would allow this person to manage the project when things are going well. Second, this person’s expect-ations must be clearly managed: Roelf is the designated turnaround PM until the project turnaround has been achieved. Then there will be a transition. Finally, Roelf and the person must develop a sound working relationship. This is best done by allowing the paired PM to work with Roelf during the assessment step.

3. On the pairing fit is confirmed, Roelf acts as the designated PM and the “paired” individual acts as his deputy. This set the stage for the transfer of authority, once the project is back on track.

There is no simple way to estimate the time frame required for a project turnaround before hand. Every project in trouble is different. However, the turnaround plan will lead to updates of the project plan, of the target milestones and of the project’s progress metrics. These activities are the appropriate way to estimate the duration of the turnaround assignment.

Sometimes, clients prefer that the turnaround PM is an internal person. However, they may have concerns about the depth of this person’s experience with project turnarounds. Given a strong enough individual, Roelf can as act as the person’s project turnaround coach and mentor.

This is a more intense version of Individual Project Manager Mentoring and Coaching. Although it has some of the characteristics of the previous type of assignment, the coaching is much more intense. Roelf’s involvement during the early stages of this approach will be close to full time.

Once the turnaround plan is in place, the coaching work will require one-on-one contact several times a week for some time. The turnaround plan may also have Roelf working as a project resource for some specific tasks. This futher reduces the risk of turnaround failure. Roelf’s primary objective in this type of assignment to make the assigned internal turnaround PM a “hero”.





Acme Corporation is building a new facility that will be highly automated. The overall project involves three coordinated sub-projects.

  1. Construction of a new building to house the facility.
  2. Supply / installation of new equipment and fixtures.
  3. Development of new software, and upgrades to existing software applications, to take advantage of this new equipment and facility.

Cheng is the overall project manager for the project. He has three sub-project managers, one for each of the sub-projects. In the last months, most of his personal energy has been spent dealing with the external contractor responsible for building the new building. It is now close to completion.

This month it has become apparent that there will be problems with both the scheduled supply / installation of the new equipment and with the coordinated delivery of the new software and software upgrades. These sub-project managers have mostly been working independently of each other. They have not managed to build an effective working relationship. In his focus on the external building contractor, Cheng has missed this.

Mirane, the VP at Acme responsible for the business unit in which the project is occurring, now knows that she has a serious problem. Several new client contracts depend on the on-time completion of the new facility. Money and time has been built into the remaining project plan to deal with the risks inherent in coordinating the installation of new types of equipment with the deployment of new and upgraded software.
However, Mirane doubts that Cheng has the ability to effectively manage the rest of the project. At the same time, she wants to maintain her new client’s’ confidence in Acme’s ability to handle their business. Mirane wants to get the project back on track without visibly bringing in an external turnaround PM.

Yolande is an up and coming software applications development Director at Acme who has managed projects the size of theses sub-projects. But she has never had overall responsibility for a project of this size, involving some complex interdependencies between sub-projects. She also has little experience managing external equipment contractors. However, she is an internal person. Placing her in the project manager role will allow Mirane to image the change to her new clients as a normal matter of business. As much as Mirane wants to do this, she also wants to take steps to mitigate the risks involved.

Yolande asks Roelf to potentially take on the role of Yolande’s turnaround PM coach. Roelf asks to see the existing project plans and risk mitigation documents. As well, he asks for access to the various contract documents involved. Mirane gets Roelf to sign an appropriate Non-Disclosure Agreement, and provides him the documents. At the same time, she provides these documents to Yolande, asking her to review them in preparation for a meeting to discuss the status of the project.

Mirane meets with Roelf to get his “first blush” reaction to what he has seen. She then holds another meeting in her office with Yolande and Roelf. Mirane introduces Roelf to Yolande as an “outside project advisor”. Mirane asksYolande about her conclusions on the current status of the project. Yolande presents them. They align with what Roelf has told Mirane in their earlier meeting. Mirane goes on to ask Yolande what she would do if Yolande was given the project manager role. Mirane and Roelf listen to Yolande’s ideas.

After the meeting, Roelf and Mirane debrief. Roelf agrees with Mirane’s assessment. Yolande could turn around the project with appropriate support and coaching. If Yolande is open to this, then there is a good chance that this will work. Mirane concurs. She will meet with Yolande that afternoon to discuss this possibility with her. Roelf asks Mirane to indicate that another meeting must occur between Yolande and Roelf before Mirane finalizes her decision.

Roelf and Yolande meet. Yolande is eager to both take on the role of project manager and to work with Roelf. Mirane announces the change in project manager to the project staff, and communicates it to external clients as normal business. Yolande introduces Roelf to the project team as a project risk management specialist, who will be working with her to coordinate the risk mitigation action plans. Everyone accepts that the needed coordination between the new equipment installs and new software deployment will be difficult.This legitimizes Roelf’s presence on the team.

Privately, Mirane has told Yolande that she has engaged Roelf as Yolande’s turnaround PM coach for the next three months. Mirane has indicated that this is a great opportunity for Yolande to grow. At the same time, she is clear with Yolande that she, Mirane, is taking a risk by putting Yolande in the PM role, and that Roelf is Mirane’s risk mitigation action plan.


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