Project Management

The Project From Hell



I know all of you have had a project from hell. Mine was a project that had 4 releases before I took it over, so I had no ability to pick my team. The team dynamics had gotten so bad, and the code was so buggy, that the sales people wouldn’t sell the product!

My approach

This is the approach I took. I interviewed everyone involved in the project and quickly found out that the main problem was the technical leader. No one liked working with him and he thought he was the God of engineering. The technical writer was ready to go to HR with a charge of sexual harassment. That I had to inform the VP of engineering and the VP of HR in case the charge was made real and we had a legal issue on our hands.

I also worked extensively with the technical leader in the areas of communications and relationship building. The two of us were able to work well together, but somehow he couldn’t translate it to the rest of the team. He didn’t even know when he committed something that would be taken the wrong way. Whenever that happened, I immediately gave him feedback in the hopes he would start to learn to recognize these situations before they incurred and change his behavior.

Using other eye’s to help

When that didn’t work, I brought in a consulting team to help us agree on a mission, goals, roles and how we would run meetings. I invited people from all disciplines; software engineering, technical documentation, first and second level support, sales, marketing, services and quality.

The meetings were heated but we all were able to come up with an agreeable way to run the project. When we had a 3 month checkup with our consulting team, we were not doing much better. It came to the point where one of the support members verbally abused me in public. I had to make a decision, so I told the technical leader that his expertise was needed as a technical guru, but that I was give the project lead role to someone else on the team. Things slowly became better. The project team met to decide how to make the product more supportable and profitable. (Upper level management was ready to cancel the project at this point). We came up with a plan to have the people who knew the code best to do a massive code review and pick the hot spots that had to be rewritten.

The technical leader ended up leaving because it was his complicated, uncommented code that was causing the most problems.

Great ending

But there was a good ending. I presented this plan to upper management (which would take us a year without releasing while we were rewriting the code) expecting them to reject it. When we got the go ahead – we knew failure was not an option.

We included the whole team to draft a set of metrics that the code had to pass and refused to release it until the key support personnel gave it the ok. One of my inputs to these metrics was constant communications to the point that we met every day to plan the next day’s activities. We won a prize within a year for raising sales so dramatically.

That was my hardest project, but we all learned a lot. My only regret was that I couldn’t save the technical leader. He was very brilliant, but refused to mentor anyone of the team. My message to you is there is no project that is impossible.

 Have a great day! Donna


October 6, 2008 Posted by | Communications Management, Project Management, Risk Management, Scope Management | , , | Leave a comment