Most offices are littered with the corpses of dead projects—great ideas that were discussed and developed, only to be killed before they could live. But there are are reasons to revive them, most importantly because much of the legwork has been done for you. So how can a manager wake the dead?
By following a few simple rules from Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster, you too can revive an old, failed project at your job and make it as good as new.
Pick the right project.
Some abandoned or failed projects can yield astonishingly good results with just a little rethinking and redirecting resources. The trick is to realize which project is which.
Dindy Robinson, HR director for a higher education institution, says you need to pick the right project. For example, you wouldn’t want to revise a process for creating forms in triplicate. “However,” she says, “if you decide to implement a paperless system for approving work orders, you can take advantage of existing, inexpensive technology, revise the forms, and streamline processes all at the same time.”
Discover what killed the project in the first place
A clever idea may have been stymied by a recalcitrant manager--two years ago. But perhaps that manager has moved on. Time to run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes (or shoots it down).
Project manger Kymberli Morris, vice president of sourcing and vendor management for Credit Suisse, says, “If the timing was off—budgets for the year had been exhausted, for example—and now funding is available, that hurdle may have been addressed.
When it comes to timing, internal budgets aren’t the only concern. Morris says, “Was the technology not available to support it? Was it not cost effective? And if it was for political reasons – has enough of the old regime changed that you can propose this again without damaging your own political cache?
“Once you understand why it was abandoned in the first place, you can begin to determine if resuscitating it is a worthwhile endeavor, or if it will rapidly become a CLM (career limiting move).”
Acknowledge the dead
Good doctor Frankenstein knows where the bodies are buried… because he dug them up. And so do your co-workers, some of whom have elephantine memories. If you plan on reviving an old project, you must acknowledge the prior plan. This will show your colleagues just how prepared you are.
Rivette Scarlatti, project development manager at Exceptional Business Systems adds, “Something that was deemed impractical or too costly last year may very well be the best idea of this year. For this, the key would be to acknowledge up front that the project was previously derailed, and in your pitch, explain precisely what has changed. Overcome the objections right away if you want to have any hope of getting approval to proceed.”
Find the right Igor
Securing the right people for your team—those with the right skills and the judgment to use them well—is key to get that cadaver project new life.
For some, that means finding a stakeholder who had championed the project in the first place and one who believes in it still. Their enthusiasm may infuse the manager who holds the pursestrings into loosening them for you.
But you may also need to bring in an employee who has no prior history with the late, great project. This will show your managers that the project isn’t just backed by the Old Guard.
Appease the hostile villagers
In any company there are those who'd like the dead to stay dead; reviving old projects can remind even the hardest-working laborers of their own failures or that of others.
Scarlatti says, “If you are facing objections because your idea will cost someone their funding, staff or ‘a piece of their empire,’ your options are more limited.
“If that is a misconception, then the most important thing to do would be to clear up that misapprehension immediately, publicly and followed up in writing. If this is true, then your battle will be harder, but still the best solution is to approach it openly and honestly and show how this is still the best option for your firm.”
In order to keep the peace with opposing managers, “Invite the person to work with you to see how to mitigate the collateral damage to his/her funding/staff/empire.”
Robinson agrees, “I like to bring the most vocal nay-sayers onto the implementation team. I’ll often turn to them during a meeting and say something like, ‘This is where we really need your expertise. How can we make this happen?’ This does a couple of things—it satisfies their need to be seen as an expert; it buys their support, because it’s hard to be opposed to something you’ve helped to implement; and it can help alert you to potential problems, because the naysayer is going to be looking for every possible thing that can go wrong.”
So it seems that, in order to avoid the villagers (or your managers) chasing you out of town with torches and pitchforks, a little foresight will allow you to stitch together the old and new parts of that monster project.
Image courtesy of theblackboxclub.com