Four Horrible and Eight Good Ideas in a Project Crisis

In my last post I described a project restart, a simple, generic process for handling a software project when there are too many things left to do a few months before deadline. In this post I’d like to get more hands-on and talk about what actions you might actually consider in this unpleasant situation.

My experience is that some ideas that people consider sound great but are really, really bad ideas. And some suggestions, that many people may be unaware of, could have a positive impact.

Be warned, though! There is no magic dust you can sprinkle on a team to make them considerably faster in the short term. If you can help them become just 10-20% more productive you should feel proud. You have more leverage reducing scope on every level and modifying the system in which they work.

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The Project Reset – Bouncing Back from a Project Crisis

Before the Storm

Storm is coming

Storm is coming (Roberto Pagani)

Projects have a way of distorting people’s perception. When the seductive promises have been made to the almighty directors to get funding, the deadline is closing in (fast), and the development team is not nearly as productive as you’d expected, then desperate measures certainly are close at hand.

I think we’ve heard all the variations by now:

  • The Ostrich: We need this by June, you figure it out!
  • The Compromiser: What about quality? Can’t you fix the bugs later?
  • The General: How many more troopers do you need?
  • The Virgin: Why can’t you just… well, work faster?
  • The Blackmailer: If you won’t come through, we will get shut down.
  • The Pleader: There’s no turning back. We’ve promised this to the higher-ups.
  • The PM/Cruncher: OK, listen up! Everyone is on overtime until we’re back according to plan.


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