A Tool to Help a Project Manager Assess a Failing or Failed Project


Being a Project and Programme Manager one of the most common assignments is to recover a failed or failing project. It’s not unusual for companies to wait until things get so bad that they seek expert advice in the form of a consultant project or programme Manager. Over the past twelve years I have established an approach to these assignments based on assessing their current state and implementing incremental improvements. To be clear, I’m not talking about the project deliverables being in trouble. We all know that delivering change, software and processes are fraught with risk, but the reason why projects are failing is due to the project management approach.

Project Review

My high level project management review is based on PRINCE2¬Æ (Agile people don’t switch off yet, look below to the Agile SCRUM section!). Although you don’t need to be in a PRINCE2¬Æ environment to make this assessment, the questions are still valid. You should always be asking:

‚ÄòAm I undertaking this project management activity? If not, should I be?’

PRINCE2¬Æ is big. Implementing everything in full depth and breadth is not the right approach. However, the approach is to ask yourself, by not applying a principle am I increasing the risk of failure, and is the time, cost and effort of introducing the principle justified? Over many Project reviews I have established a PRINCE2¬Æ Health Check and Maturity model based on the PRINCE2¬Æ processes. This tool became so useful to me and my team I decided to make it public, free of charge, so others could benefit. The tool is located here. It’s now one of the first places a project or programme manager goes to assess projects and the tools are helping many people quantify why a project is in a critical state and what should be improved.


Agile is different!

Delivering projects using Agile and specifically SCRUM is a very different proposition to a Project being delivered using PRINCE2¬Æ. Much can be discussed about the two working in collaboration, but there are some very basic principles of SCRUM that you can review and check. I purposely didn’t call this a Health Check as Agile and SCRUM is much more than just undertaking the activities, ceremonies and producing the artifacts. You can use the check list to remind yourself if you doing the basics, and if not, why not? The check list can be found here.

Hopefully these free tools will help any project stakeholder reach a conclusion quickly and produce reports for their clients which are impressive, tangible and invoke the change to enable success.

Recommended Project Management Software

If you’re interested in learning more about top rated project management software, the editors at Project-Management.com actively recommend the following:

Nick Cox

Nick is a freelance Project and Programme Director. He is certified as a PRINCE2® Practitioner, Scrum Master, MoR® Practitioner, MSP® Practitioner and holds a Degree in Software Development Management. LinkedIn