Focus on these five areas – immediately…
What is the #1 priority right now?
Figure out the #1 thing that needs to be taken care of right now and work on it. Don't procrastinate. And if its something someone on the team can do faster or better, delegate. Then move on to #2, then #3, and so on.
So many times we get caught reacting to the loudest shouter or to whatever stops us on our way to complete a task - just like the employee rushing through a grocery store. He's obviously working in something, yet we stop him and need him to show us where the peanut butter is. Does that sound like you when you're working in tasks? Shut the world out and get it done.
What can you accomplish today?
Like above only different. A top priority task is fine. But sometimes a top priority task may take a week or two. Or may only be a half time effort. If so, then also look for something you or a team member can accomplish TODAY. Not just start, but also finish. Sometimes excess issues or problems can make us lose focus on what's important - and right now that's showing forward progress in the midst of chaos.
Revamp the communication system
Many times when projects start to really fall apart you can trace it back to a communication breakdown. Are meetings still consistently happening? What has the attendance been at the last few project meetings? Make the mandatory. Take control as the PM. If key personnel aren't attending or aren't participating and that is causing problems, go to their managers. Get them in those sets or replace them.
Likewise, are you as the project manager communicating effectively and efficiently? If there isn't a communication plan in place, stop and create one and follow it. An example of a good communication plan is available for free download on my site. Use it - you won't be sorry.
Rally the team
Often in bad times, cohesive teams rally together and around their leader. That isn't happening here though, is it? Gather the project team together and map out the issues. It doesn't have to be anything more than a nice spreadsheet with issues, status, assignments and descriptions. But document every single issue so you know you're in control and on top of them. That alone will empower you and your team - and it may delay that call to Commissioner Gordon.
Have the one on one with the customer lead
You know you're stinking up the place. For whatever reason or reasons within and/or outside of your control, it's not going well. You know your customer is aware even if not much has been said. It's time to pick yourself up by your bootstraps, stop avoiding "the discussion" and sit down one on one with your counterpart on the customer side.
Go through the issues, don't pass blame, show accountability and ownership, and layout a roadmap that leads somewhere in the vicinity of success. At least show that it points somewhere in the direction of that light at the end of the tunnel. Your customer will appreciate the ownership and communication and will hopefully acknowledge the fact that you are obviously trying to take steps in the right direction. That alone will delay the call to your CEO. Trust me.
Sometimes success just isn't going to happen. And sometimes that failure can be epic and career defining. But while you still have a chance to show everyone that you're trying to turn it all around...do so. At least if it all still crashes you can say you did your best to pull it back together.
What about you? Have you had an utterly issue-riddled project that you were able to turn around? How did you do it? What was the outcome?