I find it interesting that every project, well nearly every project, I am asked to recover begins the same way. I go on-site to watch and listen. I see conflict and chaos masquerading as progress. I hear discussions of challenges but no admittance of trouble. And inevitably, when I begin to talk to the leads, someone will tell me that I just don't understand.
It's true, I don't understand, and I'm proud of that. I believe the greatest skill one can bring to a recovery is an open mind. I am certain I don't understand, so I ask a lot of questions. Better yet I really hear what people say whether talking to each other or responding to me. I have no preconceived pattern they should match, but I do look for patterns. I don't lay out plans too quickly, although they begin to develop as soon as I arrive. Most importantly I don't pay any attention to the titles and roles people present. Frequently the least valued team member has the most insightful view while the person at the top of the declared hierarchy is, or has become, so removed they are nearly delusional in their belief of the current state of affairs.
The best recoveries are about learning. I learn about the people, the team, the users, and the management as well as the problem domain. I can but hope the team sees an opportunity to learn from me as a positive use of their time. Learning however, requires everyone, especially me, to be willing to accept new ideas and throw out old ones, and to take discarded plans and reconsider them as truly plausible solutions.
"You just don't understand..." For me it's like a red flag to a bull. A clear indication that something is wrong and it needs to be discovered. No one really understands everything. Projects are exceptionally complex things with heartbeats, feelings, interrelationships, and a will of its own. The goal shouldn't be to understand it. Instead the goal is to help it find its own way. No need to fight the tide but figuring out how to harnessing its power... now your on to something.