Corrective PM Action Part 1 – the Project

Posted by Brad Egeland

Of course, we wish all of our projects went perfectly and ended with a nice customer signoff, payment or whatever followed by a successful rollout…then onto the next project.  Reality says that just isn’t usually the case, right?  In Part 1 of this four-part series on different corrective action that PMs must often take, we’ll examine corrective action that is often taken to rescue the project itself.

The scenario

Let’s assume you’re running a project and the outstanding issues that are necessitating corrective action really have nothing to do with the management of the project itself – meaning the project manager.  And let’s continue down the personnel vein and assume that issues aren’t with the team – at least not from an administrative standpoint.  We’ll get to the team in another segment of this series.  They could be issues with the team from an ability standpoint (meaning maybe you need more technical expertise in a particular area).  If the issues aren’t personnel, but focus more on budget, timeframe, bugs, skills, etc….how do you cope?  What potential corrective action measures can you take?

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to remain somewhat general.  I’ve found that corrective action that must be taken on a project usually centers around one or more of four basic project areas: the skills of the resources, the project budget or financial situation, the project schedule, and the issues and risks that can arise.  Let’s examine each of these.

Evaluate your team’s skill set

While the problem may not be with individual attitudes, customer interaction, or motivation, it may in fact be an issue with the skill set of one or more project team members.  An early to mid-project snapshot of the project technical needs may give you a revised look at what you really need to get the job done – and it may not be what your project team can currently offer.  If that is the case – or if they don’t seem to have the skill set to get the project through a current round of issues – work with the team and the customer to identify what skills truly are needed.  And then seek those out from the appropriate resource manager in your organization.  The key is to not overload the project with personnel because you will then have a budget issue on your hands – figure out a transition plan and work it out with customer oversight and input.

Bring the financials to the forefront

If the project budget is becoming an issue, bring your team immediately into the management and oversight of the project financials.  Making them knowledgeable and accountable not only gives you another set of eyes for the budget, but also makes your team members aware of budget issues and your oversight of it – instantly making them more careful and accurate users of the project’s precious financial resources.  Trust me, it works.

Make collaboration happen

You may be great at revising and distributing a weekly up-to-date project master schedule.  But there’s no ownership of its individual pieces if your team and customer never look at it.  Long before PM software was collaborative, I forced schedule collaboration on a floundering $30 million project by making individual peer managers responsible for portions of the schedule and then tied it all back together every week before the weekly status call with the customer.  It worked – the managers became more accountable to timeframes and tasks and my staff and I turned the project around within a two-month window.  Now we have more collaborative tools – it’s a good idea to give access to the schedule to your team and maybe even your customer with a tool like Seavus’ Project Viewer.  The key is to make it collaborative -  share the project schedule and make your team and customer own their tasks.

Re-examine the risks

It never fails that project teams overlook some or even many risks that could come up on a given project – meaning they’ve made no plans for risk avoidance or mitigation should those risks arise.  Go back to the risk list and re-evaluate the current plans and collaborate with the team and customer to identify new potential risks now that the project is in full stride.  This is a good action to take mid-stream even on a healthy project, but it’s a critical action to take on an unhealthy one.


While these are just four key areas where you can make a quick impact on the outcome of the project, certainly depending on the nature of the project issue or issues a more pinpointed effort can cause a more dramatic turnaround.  It’s always best to practice open, honest communication with the customer and team and work cohesively with them.  Problems and issues get aired and addressed in a timely manner, allowing for swift and precise corrective action to take place.  Hopefully in time to turn the project around before more damage is done.

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