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The Four Stages of Recovering a Project

~ By Kenneth Darter

Road sign reading Road to Recovery

If a project is in trouble, the project manager needs to work to recover it and get the schedule back on track. Hopefully, it's not too late to still meet the project deadlines and goals.

Performing a project recovery is not a fun or easy task, but setting out a simple track to follow will help the project manager recover the project. And it always feels good to save the day on a project.

Working through these four steps will help the project manager facilitate the recovery.

1. Identification

The first step is to identify the problem. You cannot even consider trying to recover a project that is in trouble if you don't know what the problem is in the first place.

While it might seem like a simple enough issue to diagnose, there can be difficulties in determining the exact root cause putting the project at risk in the first place. Perhaps the requirements were not defined well enough, or perhaps the schedule dictated by the customer was too aggressive.

Interviews with the project team and a careful analysis of the situation will help you identify the problem and move forward. But make sure to determine the cause of the problem.

Just putting a band aid on the symptoms will not help at this point.

2. Discussion

Once you have identified the problem, it's time to discuss it with the appropriate parties and determine the course of action that will recover the project.

This may not be an easy discussion if the people you're discussing it with are part of the problem!  It's important, though, to have a candid conversation and keep the discussion focused on the problem, not the person.

The facilitator should have all of the information at hand and be able to tell the story of why the project is in trouble. This discussion should lead to a solution that will steer the project back to meeting its goals.

3. Implementation

After all of the discussion and analysis, it's time to implement the solution that will recover the project.

The solution might involve changing the schedule baseline, updating the project scope or even making a change in the project team. The solution should be well-documented and communicated to all parties that will be involved in the recovery of the project.

All of the steps to recovery should be carefully outlined and detailed. There should be no questions about what needs to be done and when it must happen in order to put the project back on track.

This part of the recovery process should be well-thought-out and approved by management and the client. That way, the recovery can proceed without further delay or issues.

4. Re-baseline

Once the recovery of the project is proceeding, the project manager and the project schedule should reflect what is happening to recover the project.

Everything that happens in the recovery must become part of the project scope and schedule. Moving forward, the tasks of the recovery become incorporated into the project work. The re-baseline of the schedule should take into account the recovery tasks and the change in dates going forward after the recovery.

This is an excellent time to re-evaluate the entire project and determine if anything needs to be updated or changed so that the project not only proceeds, but also succeeds.


When recovering a project that's in trouble, identify the problem, determine how to recover, implement your solution and re-baseline the schedule. Set a simple track with these four steps.

Recovering a project is never easy or fun, but with some care and attention, it's possible to turn it around.

After all, it's never bad to be the person that saved the day.

Comments (1)

Topic: The Four Stages of Recovering a Project
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10th November 2014 9:29am
Casey Sauders says...
The second step is where people almost always get stuck. Sometimes, it's hard to establish a strategy, or to choose the best solution for a problem, because communication is not how it's supposed to be. Discussions are very important, but it's equally important to come to a conclusion that satisfies all parties involved.

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