As long as 'better' is possible,
'good' is not good enough.

Roadmap project renovation

The process of project renovation takes place in several phases and is comparable to the known project management phases. In addition, these phases are supplemented by a conflict de-escalation and a project handover phase. As a rule, the project renovator is only temporarily involved in the actual development project and then passes the project back to the original project team.

In the event of a crisis, communication is burdened by emotions (e.g. fear, resignation), the conflict is often multifaceted and the steakholders sometimes have very different interests. In these cases, mediation is a tried and tested tool for the development of a sustainable conflict resolution. However, this presupposes that the OEM (automobile manufacturer) and the supplier are able to develop a solution and to implement it.

Mediation is a procedure for conflict resolution. The parties to the conflict (OEM supplier) and the mediator (project renovator) are responsible for resolving the conflict and developing the solution. The focus of mediation is on the people with whom the problem is questioned (separation of thing and person) and solutions are worked out together. In contrast to the mediation process, there is an extremely tight deadline, so that improvement measures recognized by the project renovator sometimes have to be implemented at short notice.

Phase Activity Phase mediation
Initiation Order clarification with the top management of the supplier (role clarification)
stakeholder analysis
* Structure the communication process
Introduction and a first picture of the conflict
Situation analysis As-is analysis with all stakeholders
Project review
* Review relevant documents
Presentation of the points of view and collection of topics
Root cause analysis Identification of vulnerabilities (Technology, process, ...)
potential problems (What, where, when and extent)
* Clarify the interests of the supplier and the OEM (SOP compliance with what compromises)
Researching the background and interests
Action planning Development and evaluation of Solution scenarios
Identification of conceivable causes and preventive measures
Planning contingency measures (Risk protection)
Define immediate measures ("Quick win")
Development of options and solutions
Implementation decision Joint action plan vote
approval of all relevant Obtain stakeholders
Conclusion - agreement and safeguarding measures
Conflict de-escalation Short-term / other improvement implement measures
Check implementation success
communication management
reorganization of project work
Project handover Back delegation to the project team
Lessons Learned Workshop
* Project completion project renovator

Practical example mediation in a project renovation - "save face"

In another renovation project, gas tanks could not yet be reliably welded until shortly before series production started. There were leaks during test drives, which required a time-consuming exchange of the gas tank. The parts were manufactured by a subcontractor. The subcontractor had carried out preliminary tests and selected a welding process that was available in his house and that he achieved good results. The Tier-1 supplier was responsible for the component.

The welding expert from the OEM recommended a different welding process, which was also shown in the literature as a more robust process.
The situation seemed to be clear, so that only the welding process had to be changed to solve the problem. When I discussed the matter with the head of prototype construction, it became clear to me that changing the welding process for personal reasons was not so easy for him: he was afraid to communicate the change in the welding process to his supervisor. The supplier had invested a lot of money in the past two years, making it difficult for the person responsible for the component to justify a wrong decision without risking personal consequences.

New comparative welds were agreed under a pretext and it was shown that the new welding process had a more robust process. The welding process for series production was changed and everyone was able to save face - the problem was solved at short notice.

Project renovation - dealing with emotions

The endangerment of the SOP means a great economic risk for the OEM and its suppliers. Therefore, everyone strives to comply with the SOP under all circumstances. Few projects fail shortly before the SOP due to the complexity of the product. There is no sign of a threat to the SOP until the SOP and this previous period can be characterized as a project crisis that can develop into a conflict. However, every crisis does not have to develop into a conflict.

A project crisis has many causes, but these are often due to human error. This can begin, for example, with the fact that the project was not planned adequately and no risk management was carried out. In addition, lack of communication and non-functioning change management can accelerate the crisis.

The conflict situation is perceived as very emotional by everyone involved. The technical work is replaced by blame. As a rule, the project team is no longer able to renovate the project. Only an internal or external troubleshooter with the appropriate experience and sufficient resistance to stress can calm the situation and work out solutions to problems together with all those involved (including OEM).

In an emotional conflict environment, the mediation process is a tried and tested means of rehabilitating a project. The course of the project renovation can be described based on the five-stage process from business mediation and supplemented by conflict de-escalation and project handover. Due to time constraints, it may be necessary to deviate from the procedure and to improve the situation at short notice. However, the mediation process opens up the development of sustainable solutions that also enable good cooperation beyond the SOP.

Opportunity to deal with conflicts

Project crises not only have risks, they also have opportunities. If the supplier learns from his mistakes and implements this knowledge, he is better positioned for the future. The communication processes can be adapted within the company, the project management and the entire project organization can be improved in a goal-oriented manner. In addition, the conflict offers him the opportunity to better understand his customers, so that he can offer his products in a more targeted way in the future. As a rule, a supplier has gained a reputation after successful project renovation at the OEM.

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Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Graën PMP

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