turn around a failing project

How to Turn Around a Failing Project

We’ve all been there: A useless initiative. A pointless meeting that sets us up for failure. Another project that isn’t going anywhere but that nobody has the authority to kill.

When the world is a vampire and everything feels broken, here’s how to turn around a failing project.

Admit That It’s a Failure

If you’re banging your head against a wall and can’t make progress, it’s time to seek out a trusted confidante and tell the truth: You’ve hit a dead end, and you need help. Hopefully you have someone in your life who is radically candid and won’t sugarcoat the truth. You don’t need a cheerleader. You need someone to help you face facts.

Seek Out Project-Related Expertise

GlitchPath was built by an engineer who lights the world on fire. But as we tested our product, I quickly learned that good engineering is different than good design. The single biggest impediment to user adoption was the look and feel of the product, so I went out and sought help from the best user-experience and user-interface expert I know. I’m not messing around with a patchwork of half-assed solutions, which is what happens when most projects are in a death spiral. So if your project is failing, seek out an expert to solve your problems. You won’t regret the additional brainpower.

Collaborate with Nonexperts, Too.

Here’s the thing about talking to experts: Sometimes they suffer from knowledge blindness. It’s helpful to gain insights from someone who is new to a problem and has a fresh perspective.

Move Your Mind and Body to a New Location.

There’s nothing worse than trying to solve a problem while hunched over the same old table in the same old conference room where you do the same old work. Reinvigorate your spirits by changing offices, taking a field trip or working from home. Take a hint from yoga without actually doing yoga: Improve your mental and physical posture to inspire new ideas and solutions.

The one thing you shouldn’t do to turn around a failing project? Call a consulting firm. At least, not right away. The people best suited to solve a problem are the ones closest to the issues.

You are the experts. You are your own consultants. You’re bosses and leaders and entrepreneurs, even if those formal titles aren’t on your business cards. So before you look externally for answers, try looking internally.

And try running a project premortem, even if the project is midstream. It’s never too late to ask “How will this fail?”

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