Project Reanimation: How to Revive a Dead Project in 5 Steps

Linh Tran, Wednesday 23 March 2016 | Reading time: unknown

Everybody loves a good comeback, just look at all the extremely successful revivals of cult TV shows right now, like Full(er) House or X-Files. This proves that you should never fully discard an old project.

There are several reasons why project managers decide to let a project die. The most common reason for a project’s early demise is that the customer decided to cancel it. Another reason could be that the situation has changed and the project does not create any value for the organization anymore. Or there were too many problems that made it impossible to deliver the project on schedule and within budget. Whatever the reason, it’s always a loss for the organization to stop an ongoing project.

There are benefits to reviving a dead project: As you have already worked on the project before, it will help you save time and effort as you don’t have to start planning from the beginning.

Reviving a dead project can be very rewarding, but there are several challenges to managing a reanimated project. Here are 5 steps you have to take if you want to revive a project successfully: 

1. Pick the right project

The first step is, of course, to find the right project. You should ideally have a folder with all your previous projects in it, no matter if you’ve completed them or not. Collect all the dead projects and identify the one that meets your current objectives the best. Analyze whether the project is still feasible and whether it will create any value.

2. Evaluate the situation

Be aware that you can’t just take the old project and continue where you left off. There was a good reason why you dropped the project, identify what went well and what didn’t. Get an overview of how far you’ve come in the project lifecycle, and analyze how the situation was then compared to now. The situation back then might not have been right for the project, but it might be extremely relevant now.

3. Assemble the right team

Now that you’ve picked a project and performed a situational analysis, it’s time to assemble your team. It’s always important to have motivated people on your project team, but for a revived project it’s even more important. Many will be skeptical about reviving a dead project, and view it as a waste of time and money. If your own team thinks that way, you won’t be able to complete the project successfully, so you should only choose people who are fully behind the project.

4. Create a new project plan

When you have your team together it’s time to create a new project plan. You don’t have to throw the old plan out completely. Take the parts that were successful and transfer them to the new plan. Most of the time project’s fail because they were too complex, so if you want to revive a project, the best way to do so is to simplify it. Taking out unnecessary processes will increase the efficiency of the project and you and your team will be able to work much more effectively.

5. Stay on track

Your team is ready and there is a clear project plan, now it’s time to implement it. You have to make this project your priority as there is much more pressure to complete it successfully. You need to clearly communicate to your team that it’s essential that they meet milestones and deadlines, there can’t be any deviation from the project schedule. At the same time, you also have to stay flexible and regularly review your plan to see whether you’re still on track.

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