The project manager is designated as the person responsible for the execution of the project. There are 5 main phases each project goes through: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and closing. Yet, despite best efforts, a crisis can happen at any time. Even if you feel you have every base covered, the unexpected can happen. They can come from internal company issues, natural disasters or something else. Every project manager must be prepared to accept the worst.
When a crisis is inevitable, you should have preparations and backup plans in place. Here, we've compiled a list of crisis management tips to get you back on track.
Watch for early signs of a possible crisis
If you're as prepared as you should be, you will notice early warning signs. To minimize the potential damage you should start crisis management as soon as you notice them. Here are the questions to foresee potential troubles: Are there persistent complaints? What is the turnover rate? Is there resistance to change? Are new technologies being rebuffed? Are there several bad rumors circulating?
You can often trust your gut. The issues start small, but if left unchecked, they can cause tremendous problems. The last thing you want to do is ignore them. It would take much more time to recover from an issue left alone to swell.
Develop your crisis management plan
If a crisis happens you should have a project management crisis plan to respond effectively to the threat. First of all, think of the list of possible crises and prepare different scenarios for each type of crisis you might experience. Ensure that your crisis plans are detailed, realistic and timed. The next step is to set markers which will show that a crisis is here and it is time to launch your crisis plan. When the emergency happens, be clear about a particular role every team member plays in the crisis management. Make sure that there are clear goals and responsibilities.
You want to avoid speculation. This is especially true when preparing your project management crisis report. When a crisis takes place, everyone wants to know how it happened. Yet, many situations are so complex that you can't always point to one issue alone. You also need to understand how to get your team to work together
Plus, jumping to conclusions can be dangerous. It might add fuel to the fire and cause a roadblock to finding the right solutions. Instead of speculation, focus on Root Cause Analysis (RCA). Furthermore, don't focus on the small things.
Remind yourself of the big picture. Problems don't happen everyday, and the sooner you resolve it, the sooner you can move on and back to more efficient work. Naturally, it’s critical to stay realistic, but always keep a positive attitude.
Cut your losses early, if necessary
Success of the project depends on too many variables. Even if you are a genius of project management, you have a great team and all resources to achieve and overachieve your KPIs, the unexpected might happen. Not speaking about the fact, that “ideal” team and sufficient resources are utopian terms in project management. So if the project is destined to fail, it is better to put an end to a project rather than make attempts to save a sunk ship. If you see that there are too many unsolvable problems, if you lack crucial resources and there is no way you can find them in a timely manner, or you see any other signs indicating that the project is going to fail, it is better to cut losses early. The objective is to act quickly and decisively, communicate appropriately at all levels, and behave as ethically as possible.
Do a crisis post mortem to avoid situation in the future
Every crisis comes with a lesson. You may have handled the crisis, but your job isn't done. You've gone through the difficult part, but now you have the opportunity to take a look at the crisis from a new perspective. You can start by taking into account the full picture of what happened from before the crisis to the solution. You also want to review what you've learned and conclusions you have made.
Take time to discuss what was done well and what could have been improved. You also want to start working on regaining client and stakeholder confidence. This can be done through transparency and taking responsibility. Furthermore, after your crisis post mortem, you can start to share what you will do to prevent future crises.
The point is to be as specific as possible. Clients and stakeholders want you to ease their fears with a solid, comprehensive and detailed plan that conveys all of the exact steps you will take if issues arise in the future again.
Project management crises will occur, but you can manage them or even avoid them with the right plans in place. No one expects you to have all the answers or to tackle the issues alone. Yet, handling it positively, with transparency, will give you a positive boon in terms of public relations.