Project ManagementRisk Management

10 Steps to Resolve Project Management Crisis

A project crisis implies failed expectations, poor communications, improper conduct, and lack of understanding between a project team and stakeholders. Crises can come in different sizes and shapes, whether financial, technological, or public relations. Whichever you are dealing with, there are steps to take during a crisis to prevent or mitigate the damage it can cause to your project. Dmitriy Nizhebetskiy, in a post for Project Management Basics, suggests an action plan with 10 steps to exit a crisis in peace:

  1. Acknowledge the crisis.
  2. Find the root cause.
  3. Develop options internally.
  4. Restore your credibility.
  5. Start to over-communicate.
  6. Commit to deliver value.
  7. Promise to correct the root cause the right way.
  8. Renegotiate the long-term commitment.
  9. Normalize relationships.
  10. Collect feedback.

Sail Safely through the Storm

Remember the Apple/FBI fight around this time a year ago? An FBI federal judge asked Apple to help unlock an iPhone that belonged to a shooter in San Bernardino. Apple declined to help the FBI. Americans were confused meanwhile, as they wanted both privacy and security. In the middle of the chaos, Apple took a smart approach to weather the storm by sending out a press release to acknowledge the problem, openly state the facts with their reasoning, and then walk away after leveraging the public’s awareness. Being vocal and transparent in crises is the key.

Project managers can take the same approach to handle their crises. Instead of denying a crisis and letting it boil up into an unmanageable situation, they can be quick and responsive in finding out the root cause and communicating with the public. In a project management crisis, everyone has a role. Your superiors, peers, stakeholders, clients, and customers are all responsible for participating in the decision-making processes that lead to a final solution. Don’t ignore anyone, or work on your own convenience to solve the crisis.

After finding out the root cause of your crisis, you need to convey your credibility to the public and work on fixing the problem. Make sure that relevant parties are convinced that you have the ability to deal with the crisis. Maintaining others’ level of trust and loyalty is important in retaining their commitment to your organization. After a crisis, you may want to adjust their perceived expectations; Nizhebetskiy talks about this in renegotiating the long-term commitment:

You went through a crisis, you solve it together, and probably detected new risks. If customers cooperated during the previous steps than they might be open to review the end date of the project and budget.

Be careful if the crisis was clearly caused by you or the team and there is damage already. Customers may agree to soak up the negative effect of the unexpected event. Though, they will be reluctant to pay for incompetence. In such a case you will need to look for additional resources internally.

Last but not least, don’t get stuck in a storm forever, but try to quickly move on with the project life. You need to eventually transition out of crisis processes and back into routine processes. Collect feedback to prevent dissatisfaction, and be informed about areas for improvement.

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