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Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme, Sixth Edition by Robert K. Wysocki

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What Is a Distressed Project?

Whenever the performance of a project falls outside nominal values, it is judged to be a project in distress. How it got to that state is a question that needs answering. Most important is knowing how to establish an early warning system and prevent a project from becoming distressed. But understand that even the best efforts will not be 100 percent effective, and a project can still become distressed. The question then becomes: How can it be returned to a state of normalcy — if at all? The following characteristics are symptomatic of a distressed project;

The project has exhibited a performance trend that, if continued, will result in its failure. I define two metrics in this chapter that capture the cumulative history of the project with respect to progress against time. Whenever the cumulative history of one or both of those metrics exhibits certain trends, it suggests that the project is out of control, and the reason for the trends needs to be identified and a decision needs to be made as to how to proceed. If left unchecked, the trend will continue, and failure is almost a certainty. A growing schedule slippage is one such trend that, if continued, will lead to failure. For a software development project an unresolved bug list that continues to grow and/or whose average resolution time increases is a signal that the project may be heading toward a distressed condition.

The project's performance has exceeded one or more metric values and is a ...

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