Rescuing a Failing Project


Let’s face it, in a perfect world every project would be “on time, under budget, and without problems.”  In this same environment, my favorite football team would always be in the Super Bowl; but that’s just not going to happen.

In reality, most projects are deemed “too important” to fail; and yet, problems can – and do – surface.  For example: it is not uncommon for projects, regardless of their size, to have speed bumps, obstacles, or risks that can create problems. These challenges can impact any project manager’s ability to oversee the success of the project or even set the project on a path of a potential failure.

There may not be a single overriding factor that may cause the failure of your project.  Rather, a number of factors could be involved, some of which may be interacting with each other, which include:

  • Project timelines sliding.
  • Resources getting reassigned.
  • Communications starting to fail.
  • Sponsorships wane.
  • And of course the vast array of technical problems that pop-up.

Even projects that “were” delivered on time and under budget can result in failure over the long-term; and these failures can cost companies additional time and money on rework efforts!  However, if you have a logical approach on how you are going to track and mitigate your risks and problems you should be able to successfully deliver your project as planned.

Remember: despite these difficulties, successful project management is not rocket science, requiring a doctorate or knowledge of advanced mathematics.  In fact, the successful management of a project should not be overly complicated, as if it is based on the principles of space travel.  Instead, project management should be built around the strategic management of resources, technology, tools, and finances, and should be delivered based on a logical progression of activities and events.


When our company builds Project Management Offices (PMO’s) for clients, the solution is developed and built from our baseline four (4) phased approach. Each phase has multiple actives and deliverables associated with it; and each single phase is as important to accomplish as another.

Phase One: Evaluation – Conduct the proper due diligence to gather, identify, and analyze the requirements for project business case development and project goals. Define the scope of the project. Determine if the project is valid and attainable, in order to meet the needs of the company.

Phase Two: Planning – Identify risks, issues, quality, scope, and finances; define project standards; identify knowledge transfer and training requirements (if required). Develop the communications strategy and requirements for change management. Evaluate and define the entry/exit criteria for each project. Determine the project work effort, schedule, dependencies and resources and identify critical paths.

Phase Three: Deployment – Manage work effort, schedules, resources, quality, scope, and finances; maintain project standards; control project work; measure progress; track and manage risks, action items, dependencies, issues, and assumptions; monitor and report status against the critical path. Implement a communications strategy and any requirements for change management.

Phase Four: Realization – Using a series of checkpoints, established performance criteria, and service rehearsals (if required), you must verify that the project work has been successfully completed and will function as planned.

This approach lays out the simplified strategic plan of attack, which identifies a logical approach and the associated activities and deliverables needed to successfully manage projects.


Nonetheless, the most well designed plans don’t always turn out as well as you would like. Occasionally, you may need the help of someone outside of your project to offer his or her perspective on the situation, which involves the “heavy lifting” necessary to save the project.

Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  I agree with this statement, not because Dr. Einstein was smarter than me (though he was), but because he was right!

Sometimes we get so far down in the weeds that we just cannot see the daylight.  That’s when it’s okay to get help to fix what’s broken. The fix may be very simple, or it could be a massive effort.  However, if you go back to your logical approach and break down the key steps and activities you should be able to get your project back on track.


Paul Cevolani is the Chief Executive Officer for Novus Origo, and brings over 30 years of successful experience in the areas of Management, Strategy, Outsourcing, and Training Consulting Services for Fortune 500 & Middle Market clients, and Government Agencies.


Novus Origo is the leader in the next generation of hybrid service firms, dedicated to the success of clients by designing innovative strategies, implementing new processes & technologies, identifying cost reductions, and training organizations which result in improved operational performance and ongoing business excellence.   Novus Origo specializes in Program & Project Management, Strategic Consulting, Sourcing/Acquisition Consulting, and Training Services with a focus in the areas of Information Technology (IT, HRIT, ITO, & Cloud), Systems Integration, Business Process Management & Re-engineering, and Business Process Outsourcing (ERP, HRO, FAO, & RPO).

Novus Origo services are delivered by a team of highly experienced executives and consultants from leading advisory firms and government agencies with hands-on experience planning, managing, and delivering success on some of the most complex and challenging projects for Fortune 500 & Middle Market clients, and Government Agencies.

Novus Origo is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB)

For further information about Novus Origo please call (760) 438-4354, visit or email: