Delivery – Resolving Distress

Nuggets on resolving distressed projects by the information badger

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” – Confucious

  • Never operate a ‘no bad news’ policy; if you do, the scale, impact and costs of addressing the difficulties will be greater – it’s always best to operate a more open and supportive ethos where people feel able to discuss problems and solutions.
  • There is normally more than one reason for troublesome delivery of a signed contract; swiftly replacing the delivery leader is a common a knee-jerk action but often not an effective or reliable overall solution.
  • When a problem emerges don’t put your head in the sand and don’t play the blame game; remain balanced and objective, and concentrate on exposing and understanding the full breadth and scale of the problem.
  • Initiate a short assessment of the situation from trusted, independent, experienced personnel – assess their findings and any recommendations in conjunction with input from other sources.
  • Seek advice from commercial/legal specialists on the contractual processes to be followed, potential exposures in the contract, and the ability to raise claims against either the client or subcontractors if this is potentially appropriate.
  • Take a holistic, overall, and comprehensive approach to resolving the distress – addressing individual delivery problem items in isolation is a sticking plaster and does not address fundamental over-arching root causes.
  • Take action that embraces all of the following:
    • Establish a clear strategy which includes proactive client management and client communication at all levels, and has your internal business, account, legal and delivery team ‘on message’, and fully aligned with a common understanding to execute the strategy.
    • Ensure or establish robust internal governance to navigate resolution; it must involve all relevant internal senior stakeholders, especially when there is multi-location or multiple geography aspect.
    • Ensure there are strong account and delivery leadership teams in place that work well together as a team; make sure the right people, with the right experience and the right skills are positioned in the right roles.
    • Establish and agree a revised delivery plan and align all teams to execute it.
    • Ensure or establish robust, complete, comprehensive and quantitative business and delivery reporting and control mechanisms.
    • Ensure effective progress reviews are conducted via the internal governance forum with particular focus on progress against plan, progress on actions and threat mitigations change control, and progress on contractual and financial matters.
    • Focus on progressive improvement of delivery robustness so the client sees a) action, b) definitive correction of problematic items, c) quality outputs delivered on time to an agreed plan, and d) an improvement in discipline and professionalism such that any new situations are handled well and receive positive client recognition.
  • The journey back to success needs all the above regardless of the scale, type, location or complexity of the delivery.
  • Distressed delivery is costly; always strive to fix things once and definitively to ensure any revised financial forecast is reliable, stable and deliverable.
  • Distressed delivery is stressful for all concerned; always strive to fix things once and forever or client confidence will not recover and the hearts and minds of the delivery team will be lost.
  • Conduct a full lessons-learned exercise once progress is tangible and evidenced; make real changes to working processes, practices and approaches as a result and communicate the learning points widely – a lessons learned exercise has no value if a report just sits on a shelf or a workspace for posterity!