The key to Project Rescue is in agreeing the need for action

Piet Mondrian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Piet Mondrian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Think’s Rick Thomas on why rescuing projects must begin with an admission that things have gone wrong.

A year ago this week a significant retrospective exhibition of the works of the artist Piet Mondrian went on display in the Kunstsammlung museum in Dusseldorf. Among the paintings on show was the artist’s work ‘New York City 1’, a large canvas containing a series of yellow and red lines, that has toured the world’s major art galleries for over half a century. Mondrian died in 1944 shortly after completing the piece, and as a result the work remained unsigned. Recently discovered photographs from the artist’s studio revealed something interesting: the painting has been hanging the wrong way up for 71 years.   

Not a great day for the art world. Beyond the collective embarrassment of everyone involved for the initial mistake, questions were then raised by cynics about the validity of ‘art’ that cannot even be hung the right way up.  

But the story gets worse.

Compounding the initial error is the gallery and the wider art community’s response to the problem. They decided to leave it the way it was. Despite the fact that the singular purpose of galleries, exhibitions and tours is surely to help the public see and experience great art as the artist intended, making the change necessary to fix the problem was deemed by experts to be too difficult. To this day, if you visit an exhibition where ‘New York City 1’ hangs, you will find it hanging the wrong way up. 

As Project Managers, we see this kind of thinking surprisingly regularly. No matter how significant the consequences, short term fear about the difficulty of change can cloud decision making and set an organization up for major problems later.  

The one thing you can be certain about in the management of any complex project is that some things will go wrong. However rigorous and talented the team, and no matter how much planning and hard work goes into the job, there will be problems. Sometimes these problems will rise to the level of critical, posing an existential threat to the entire purpose of the exercise.  

When it comes to facing hard truths and taking difficult decisions this is one of the many important lessons that we’ve learned over the years.  

Communicate Openly and Transparently: Clearly communicate the reasons for the changes and the urgency of the situation. Make it known that the project is at risk, and that changes are necessary for its success. 


Think Consulting has an expert team ready to support the rescue of your troubled projects. Our extensive experience can propel your team and organization to greater heights. We’re ready to help when you need us.