Crisis project management

Management of projects in difficulty

Insolvency, contractual inaccuracies, as well as false expectations and a lack of communication can cause delays to planning and construction processes, even bringing them to a halt; this can of course impair the project. If a project is hit by a crisis, swift action is necessary to avoid endangering the success of the project as a whole. In situations like this you can rely on the experienced experts at Canzler getting your project back on track. Holger Richter and Andrej Diebels explain the crisis management policy Canzler has successfully implemented on several occasions for distressed projects.


Mr. Richter, as Managing Director of Canzler you are responsible for the success of numerous major projects. What does Canzler stand out for in its contributions to such projects?

Holger Richter:

The very big construction projects entail a large number of engineers, professionals, and specialists from different fields all working together. The planning process has many facets to it and hinges on interdisciplinary collaboration, personal responsibility, and technical stipulations, with a tight timeframe and budget to boot. The contractually specified services performed by those involved in the project as regards deadlines, costing, and quality standards lay the basis for the project's success. However, each individual's personality is likewise crucial for the overall interaction – both in our own team as well as in the overall project team. If everything is well structured and defined, all the specification sheets and quality management systems in order, and if communication works, then as a rule a project will be successfully completed, even if there are immense time pressures. Ultimately however, it all depends on staff commitment – they must and indeed can rely on one another!

So what does your organizational structure like? After all, as Managing Director you can't spend all day on the building site?

Holger Richter:

As the partner responsible for a project, I measure that by the project's success. Of course it is not always necessary to be present in person on site but nowadays no one is tied to a specific workplace anyway. I tend to see my presence as a service to our clients, I am the executive responsible whom they can turn to, and I carefully listen to their wishes and worries. With my projects that has often proven invaluable as things do not always go according to plan – and in such cases I much prefer to be on hand when things hot up.

Mr. Diebels, how do things come to that?

Andrej Diebels:

Well, sometimes you know the engine simply misfires, there's a spanner in the works, and the project goes into crisis if the relevant specialist planning is behind schedule. The project loses momentum and the progress of the project falters. In the case of several projects Canzler only joined the project team as an HVAC planner during the planning stage, ensuring first as experts and then as planners that the project got back on track.

So what are possible reasons for Canzler becoming involved in a project late on in its life?

Andrej Diebels:

There can be any number of reasons. Ambiguities with the contract, insolvency, or just plain communications problems. Nowadays, the high speed at which projects are implemented allows for no delays or only minor ones. If a planning partner drops out, or in the eyes of the client underperforms, then this can threaten the success of the entire project. The consequence is always the same: Delays in planning, and in a worst case delays in construction. Which ramps up the stress levels where nobody needs it, in the planning team. And what began as manageable and solvable can quickly become a threat to the entire project.  

What can Canzler offer in such cases?

Holger Richter:

In order to get distressed projects such as these back on the road to success, you as the developer first need the help of a neutral expert to find solutions to the crisis. We familiarize ourselves with the situation, clarify matters, and get to work when there is need. That said, faith in what the company can achieve, not to mention in the person directly involved plays a pivotal role. That is why, with regard to the above question, it makes sense to post an experienced expert to the project site. At Canzler we discuss the range of services we can offer clients who are faced with distressed projects. Elements of our crisis project management include compiling a crisis management roadmap, acceptance and change management in the planning team, and handling specific service packages to save the project.

Crisis project management - how do you approach it?

Holger Richter:

Very cautiously, as we do not want to gain a reputation for squeezing other colleagues out of a project. All the projects we have successfully brought to a conclusion this way involved an amicable settlement, and many a colleague was even grateful for our efforts – as was the client, needless to say.

So how exactly do you go about things on the project?

Andrej Diebels:

Our interdisciplinary team of engineers and experts quickly gets a handle on the project, ascertains progress to date, and compares that with the contractual milestones set for planning. The team examines the contracts, the coordination processes, and the management guidelines. Finally, on the back of the project and process analysis, we formulate measures and provisions aimed primarily at assuring the long-term success of the project. With the agreement of the client, we then take decisions regarding the future composition of the project team and implement them.

Are there rules at Canzler for getting on with one another?

Holger Richter:

You simply have to have some rules! The trust in our services, not to mention the people involved, that we have generated down through the years, is the cornerstone. In the process we stand for fair, open, and honest communication with all those involved in a project. We focus on a critical assessment of the project status, regardless of project roles and hierarchies - in order to find the right solution for everyone involved. After all, we want to get the job done, too.

Mr. Richter, Mr. Diebels, many thanks for talking to us!