The PM Podcast


Project Management Interviews for Beginners and Experts

Episode 205: Rescue The Problem Project (Free)

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This episode is sponsored by The PDU Podcast:
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Todd Williams, PMPWhen project budgets are dwindling, deadlines passing, and tempers flaring, then the usual response is to browbeat the project team and point fingers of blame - usually toward the project manager. That’s not really all that helpful. For these situations, what is needed is an objective process for accurately assessing what is wrong and a clear plan of action for fixing the problem.

Enter Todd Williams, PMP who wrote the book Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure. Todd and I sat down at the PMI Global Congress last year and in this interview we discuss approaches to project rescue.

Here’s a brief book overview of Todd’s book: Rescue the Problem Project provides project managers, executives, and customers with the answers they require. Turnaround specialist Todd Williams has worked with dozens of companies in multiple industries resuscitating failing projects. In this new book, he reveals an in-depth, start-to-finish process.

As always when we have an author discussing his book we are giving away two copies and by now you should know how that works. One copy is reserved for our premium listeners and one for everyone else. If you want a chance of winning the book, please go to www.facebook.com/pmpodcast and look for the book giveaway announcement. All you have to do is leave a comment.

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #205. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner. Nice to have you with us.

When project budgets are dwindling, deadlines passing, and tempers flaring, then the usual response is to browbeat the project team and point fingers of blame usually towards us, the project managers. That’s not really all that helpful. For these situations, what is needed is an objective process for accurately assessing what is wrong and a clear plan of action for fixing the problem.

Enter Todd Williams, PMP who wrote the book “Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure”. Todd and I sat down at the PMI Global Congress last year and in this interview, we discuss the approaches to project rescue.

This episode is sponsored by The PDU Podcast™, which is our sister podcast. It is a convenient way for you to earn unlimited PDUs. Get project management webinars delivered to your portable player - iPod, Android phone, Blackberry, whatever you have and earn at least 1 PDU every month. With The PDU Podcast™, there is no need to go to a classroom. You don't even have to sit at your computer. Instead, enjoy the freedom of downloading them to your portable device and earning your PDUs anywhere. Your PDU Podcast™ puts you on autopilot for your re-certification. Visit www.pducast.com. That's p-d-u-c-a-s-t.com

Here’s a brief book overview of Todd’s book: “Rescue the Problem Project” provides project managers, executives, and customers with the answers they require. Turnaround specialist, Todd Williams, has worked with dozens of companies in multiple industries resuscitating failing projects. In his new book, he reveals an in-depth, start-to-finish process.

As always when we have an author discussing his book here on the program, we are giving away two copies and by now you should all know how that works. One copy is reserved for our premium paying subscribers and one for everyone else. If you are among the everyone else, if you’re listening to the Podcast for free and you would like a chance of winning a copy of the book, then please go to www.facebook.com/pmpodcast that’s our Facebook Fan Page and look for the book giveaway announcement. All you have to do is leave a comment.

And now a little bit about Todd and then we’ll get going with the interview. For 25 years executives of manufacturing and service companies have asked Todd Williams to help them build leading-edge systems improving organizational efficiency, and turn-around troubled projects. From this experience, he has developed methods to streamline organizations, recover red projects and help prevent recurring failures. Todd draws his experience from working on internal and third-party projects, including integration of manufacturing systems, equipment integration, web-based collaboration tools, thick clients with automated internet update, and large-scale business system integration.

And now, please make a legal u-turn. Enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Todd Williams, President of eCameron Inc, author and speaker on Project Turnaround.

Cornelius Fichtner: We are still coming to you live so to speak here from the PMI Global Congress North America. We are at the Gaylord Texan Hotel near the, what was it again, The Grapevine Ballroom and people are walking pass us here going to the various presentations that they’ll be attending this afternoon. And with me here at the table is Todd Williams. Hello, Todd!

Todd Williams: Good afternoon, Cornelius! How are you?

Cornelius Fichtner: Very well, thank you very much. I’m enjoying myself here at the Congress.

Todd Williams: It’s fun!

Cornelius Fichtner: Yes. It’s always fantastic. You’ve kind of get lost because there’s so many people here. I know a ton of people yet, it’s difficult to find them. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

Todd Williams: When in you’re in a facility that has a thousand rooms in a convention center and then everything else, yes.

Cornelius Fichtner: You know with 4000 people, it’s difficult to find your 10 friends.

Todd Williams: Yes.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah, exactly. We have you here today to talk about your book called “Rescue the Problem Project” I have a copy right here. The subtitle says: “A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing and Recovering from Project Failure”. It is published by AMACOM, the American Management Association.

So let me begin with a question totally well related, unrelated to the book: Why did you write it?

Todd Williams: I’ve been doing this type of work for about 25 years and it sounded like something that was needed so I sat down and wrote it. It helped out a little bit that I had just fallen off of a top of the ladder and broke my back and I didn’t have anything else to do. So I was sitting in a chair and I said: “Now, I’ve been dealt a bunch of limits. It’s time to make some lemonade.”

Cornelius Fichtner: Wow! So that’s kind of a project that you had to rescue there yourself.

Todd Williams: Yeah! I had to rescue myself in that way, yes.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! What is the biggest mistake that people make when they are trying to save a project?

Todd Williams: Trying to save the project.

Cornelius Fichtner: Oh, trying…ah! You have to save it. There is no, what is it? There is no “try,” there is only “do,” right?

Todd Williams: There’s only do. And the problem is that they get into it; ego, emotion, whatever gets into this point where they’re trying to actually fix things but they don’t have the objectivity. They don’t have the ability to look at the cultural differences and what’s going on in their group to actually do that work. And once they back away and realize ‘I’m powerless over this thing, I need some help because it got here under my supervision and tutelage’ that they’re able to actually get someone in to help do that. Now, it could be someone from some other area of the company. But usually they’re trying to fix the project with the people there on the project already and they’re already beat up. They’re already in too much trouble.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! Let’s also take a step back at this point because we’re talking about problem project, we’re talking about troubled projects without even identifying or defining what that means. So when is a project in trouble? How do you measure that?

Todd Williams: Generally, people look at what there is from a standpoint of the triple constraints --- scope, schedule, and budget. And companies will come back and say: If I am 10% out of variance on one of those, it’s yellow, maybe they’ll say 15 and it becomes red and if two of those attributes become red then the project is red. The only problem is I can deliver a project to scope, schedule and budget and it can still be a complete failure. The customer doesn’t like it. So the real thing you have to measure is value and whether you’re providing value in that project.

So too many times, we get stuck on these things that are measurable and forget to back off and take a look at whether something is more intangible is actually imperil. And once those other things start to go into peril, then I have a serious yellow project or red project. So I’ve got the failure. So the real trick is when is it in trouble, right? They don’t know. And so you have to look at the customer. You have to look at the supplier and say: “What are we trying to do?” Now, you could have a project that’s a complete success for a customer. “I love the system. This is great.” But the supplier is 10% over-budget, maybe lost a bunch of money that project was not successful.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. So it’s not just one or two or three criteria, it’s more than that, right? It’s a more holistic view of the project

 

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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