Over the past year, I began a job where my responsibilities included a high profile app project that was very behind schedule, and had not made progress for two years. The project had run through four developers, one of which had put in writing that they did not want to be associated with the project thereafter. The project leaders are under a lot of pressure both internally and externally.
When I was hired, I was told that I had one month to design and program the app that they had been unable to achieve in two years. I replied that this was not possible, but was told forcefully by a project lead that I had to.
I came up with a successful design that put the project back on track. However, there was more to this work than initially met the eye (e.g. data the app relied on missing or needing to be restructured, and multiple requirements that were not communicated to me). Still, meeting the deadline seemed possible, so I said that yes, it seems I would meet it.
But I didn’t. After some more complications, I told the project leader I needed three more weeks to build a working prototype. The project leaders lost trust in me, and panicked. I told them a project like this would typically take five months, minimum. They freaked out at that timeline. I asked them how long their last successful project took. They said that it had taken five months for the first prototype.
Nevertheless, the project leaders blamed the project being so behind on not being able to afford a "real" programmer; I was insulted in front of co-workers more than once for "not knowing how to program". The director of the firm and others in the project leaders' department were told how I was not able to fulfill my job and I was blamed by project leaders for the delay and related loss of income to the group.
An outside firm was hired, and it took two and a half of their programmers three months to finish the project, visibly working day and night by the end. When delivered, the app was complete but crashed occasionally, wasn't extensible, and to my mind was poorly visually designed. (Ironically, many peers in my department think I had programmed this mess because I am the developer on record, and so I am worried about being criticized on aesthetic and performance grounds.) Meanwhile, the consulting firm has published a paper on the success of the app design, which was mine.
Project leadership is now frustrated with the consultant firm, so they are asking the director again to hire someone into our firm to do the coding. I am the manager of that department, so I will have to supervise the person who is replacing me. I have asked to be removed from the project, but the project leaders want to keep me on because my design for the app pulled them out of their two-year slump, and they have future design challenges to solve. Yet they continue to criticize my lack of ability and bemoan to both superiors and project sponsors that they are having problems progressing on the project because they can’t get the right programming help.
I had finished the app. It runs perfectly, doesn’t crash. It lacks the bells and whistles that the other app does, such as graphic design assets and some 3D animations, but it is more extensible and performant and clearly shows that I can program the app given the appropriate amount of time. When I made this point, I was told by the project leaders that I wasn't able to do it fast enough.
Despite doing well on my other projects at the firm and having a 15-year record of accomplished work in this field, I cannot change the way I regarded on this highly-visible project. I regularly solve problems and contribute code blocks and algorithms that the consulting firm is unable to deliver. These get incorporated successfully into the project by the project team, but are not mentioned when staff accomplishments are reviewed. They remain largely invisible. Project leaders have lost trust in my abilities. I have lost trust in the project leaders' ability to guide a quality project.
What can I do to get the relationships that have been damaged by this project back to a professional and productive status?