An interview with Todd Williams about rescuing failing projects

This video is Todd Williams talking about his book, Rescue the Problem Project. It also explains how project managers can manage failed projects. It was shot on location at Fort Worth’s PMI Global Congress. We are sitting in the convention centre’s glass atrium. You will have to forgive the sun coming out and going back in, making the video lighten and darken. I couldn’t control it!
Here is a transcript of the interview if you prefer.
I’m here to speak with Todd Williams, author Rescue the Problem Project. Todd, tell us why you wrote this book.
I have been saving projects for around 25 years. I also love writing so I decided to sit down and make something. After thinking about it for a couple of years, I did break my back. That gave me the chance to do something instead of staring at the ceiling and not doing anything. Once I had it all together, I went out to publish it. It was an amazing learning experience.
What stories went into it?”
There is a lot to talk about after 25 years of experience in rescuing projects all over the globe. There are 69 case studies and examples in the book to give you an idea of what it’s like to rescue a project. I believe there is a lot to be learned from those case studies. To protect both the innocent and guilty, the names have been changed. We protect both sides. It adds some life to it. It helps people understand the nature of things.
Which was your favorite project to rescue?
I don’t know if there is a favorite project that I rescue. Some were more difficult than others, so I’m not sure if I have a favorite rescue project. There was one in the Middle East that was extremely challenging and had many unexpected surprises.
How did you turn that around?
Culture was the big one. Understanding culture was the first thing I had. I had just completed a lot of work along the Pacific Rim, in particular in Singapore and Taiwan. It was a huge cultural change to move from there to the Middle East. It took me a while to adapt to the different cutlures. Then I realized that this was what was affecting the entire project. This was the key to my success and a great learning experience.
What is your top tip for project managers who are facing failure in their projects? How can they turn around a project?
Listen. Listen. Too many people don’t listen. They jump to conclusions too quickly. It was something I thought was only a U.S. characteristic, but it seems that it is widespread. People hear things quite often. I can hear two people talking to each other in a project and they will agree with each other like there is no tomorrow. They say, “Yes, that’s what I said.” I’ll tell them, OK, what I’m hearing is, and I’ll replay the conversation. One person says “Yes”, while the other says “That’s not what we are going do.” It’s simply about backing away, listening, and trying to get out of the situation.
Too often, we find ourselves in situations where the culture makes us think that we know something. Our biases can turn on us. Our biases can have an impact on the way sentences are written. You want the answer to come in a certain way. This is why you take what people have to say and make it into that particular thing.

An interview with Todd Williams about rescuing failing projects
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