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Jan 29, 2014 by Patrick Icasas in Project Management 101 & Tools

How Not to Manage a Project Crisis

How Not to Manage a Project Crisis

All projects falter now and then. It depends on the mistake, but most negative situations can still be salvaged. Sometimes, however, a PMO compounds the errors and turns an entirely recoverable problem into a death spiral. Unchecked, these additional errors could lead to a low-quality deliverable, missed deadlines, or even lawsuits.

If you want to protect yourself in a crisis, here are list of things not to do:

Drag Your Feet

The key to any crisis is swift and decisive action. Every moment that goes by without some sort of controlling action on your part is an opportunity for the situation to escalate. Wait too long, and things may become too much to handle. There have been situations where a problem has been called to the team’s attention and swept under the rug, only to have it blow up in their faces after a long period of quiet.

Cut off Communication

Project management crises sometimes trigger a client panic, with both customers and management calling you for an explanation or even to acknowledge the problem. When this happens to you, don’t shut them out. As painful as facing them might be, they’re actually giving you an opportunity to tell your side of the story: to defend yourself, explain the situation, and make it right. Cut them off, and they’re going to fill in the blanks themselves—most likely with unflattering remarks.

Talk Around the Problem

When you do step into that boardroom, they will be expecting you to address the situation at hand. Don’t hedge and speak of issues unrelated to the problem—even if you try to deflect the blame, your clients and stakeholders are smarter than you think. They’ll know that you’re attempting to misdirect them by casting attention on something else. In trying to protect your image, you’re actually dealing more damage.

Act without Thinking

I’ve worked with managers who pride themselves on “off-the-cuff” thinking and “spur of the moment” action, but in a crisis that’s the last thing you want to be doing. Hasty responses are never well thought out, and often backfire on the entire team. Be sure you understand the source of the problem before you do anything, otherwise your efforts will be ineffective.

Don’t Have a Plan

Do you know what happens when you don’t have a plan? People panic and stumble around blindly. Efforts aren’t coordinated and teams get in each other’s way. An already difficult situation is made even worse because the clock is ticking while an organization is still trying to figure out what is happening—much less what to do.

Contingency plans anticipate certain scenarios and draft up a set of procedures to guide people through the initial moment of panic. This may involve either a shift in resources or a new project timeline. Granted, you can’t plan for everything, but a good plan can easily be adapted to other purposes.

Image credit, Flickr, Tattooed JJ

Complimenting MS Project

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Patrick Icasas

Patrick Icasas is a former marketing project manager with 7 years of marketing and PR agency experience, managing creative projects for brands such as Nokia, Verizon Wireless, and Adobe. He now spends his time helping people make the most out of their project management software and entertaining his 5 year old daughter.

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