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Overcoming the Challenges of a Stalemate Project

The following piece is not out of a Management Textbook, but rather the result of the cumulative years of experience of a few consultants working with companies trying to improve their work practices.

One of the most heartbreaking experiences is to witness an experienced project team struggling with holding the team together during rough and challenging times. This normally occurs when individual team members are unable to agree on the “next step”, or some related problem situation derailing them. Essentially they get to the point where they do not know how to proceed.

We’ve seen many of these situations and we use a specific approach in our Project Rescue consulting practice called “Project Appraisal”. This appraisal involves the following steps, which we will discuss in more detail below.

· Priority Focus Analysis

· Cause and effect (Pareto Analysis)

· Re-aligning resources and taking action

Priority Focus Analysis

This is a situation where the team experiences conflicting concerns and they cannot reach consensus how to proceed. Inherent in this type of situations is the fact that most issues listed would be effects of some common underlying issue. The problem is that nobody has identified or articulated this underlying issue yet. The most effective action would be to list all the issues offered and to try and record them all on one page.

Cause and Effect (Pareto Analysis)

This analysis is straight-forward whereby the team links each issue as either a “cause” or an “effect”. Don’t be surprised to see a ratio of 80% effects and 20% causes. Also do not be surprised that looking at all the issues from a distance and from a different angle you would be able to identify one or two issues, which when resolved, would resolve most of the remaining 80% effects. In many cases we’ve used this technique in our first meeting with the team and asked,

“Which issue is core, which when resolved, would resolve most of the remaining issues?”

It worked every time and immediately you have the following.

· Agreement of what to do next

· Clarity and understanding of what is driving the overall problem situation and,

· How to resolve the problem

Re-align Resources and take action

Needless to say that at this point you are not going to have any problems acquiring the correct resources and agreeing on the appropriate action plan.

Client Success Story.

We got involved with a global consulting company who were having endless meetings regarding how to deal with and incorporate the DevOps development some years ago. The team could not agree on anything and when we asked them to list all the challenges they were considering, most of the challenges listed were about potential problems and negative potential effects.

When we asked the question “Which issue on the list is core, which when resolved, would resolve most of the remaining issues?” They listed many effects and two underlying reasons. One of the reasons we still remember very well, was “Not having a DevOps specialist onboard”.

As an outsider we could see that all the challenges/effects listed were due to their lack of knowledge and experience of the DevOps concept. We posed the question - if they had such an expert in the meeting, would they have had any of the listed issues on the board? The answer was no and contracting a DevOps expert was the obvious starting point.

Most clients think that it could not be that simple. We cannot guarantee that all our consultants had major successes with this starting point but by conducting this exercise everybody is “on the same page” with a common understanding of the problem situation, including us as the consultants.


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