The emergency plan in a project is like the fire prevention plan for a supermarket. You can’t miss it!
Uncertainty is an intrinsic part of all projects. The way in which the Project Manager and his team manage the emergency and the change seriously affects the activities and the very success of the project.
All projects have a level of uncertainty. Otherwise no figure would be needed to manage risks and emergencies.
This is why the most astute Project Managers structure the projects in such a way as to predict uncertainty and change rather than looking for ways to avoid unexpected surprises.
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This is why the estimates based on the best / worst scenarios are reliable and effective. It is precisely on these estimates that, in order to avoid surprises, an emergency plan is drawn up for managing a project.
The proactivity of the PM in the realization of a project emergency plan
It is more productive to be proactive rather than reactive. Anticipating unforeseen circumstances is therefore a necessity for a Project Manager.
With IT projects for example, customer needs can evolve over time and, with the evolution of technology, even overnight, this fact could represent a real emergency for the PM.
In construction projects, instead, the project could also be approved, but important delays in the delivery of the material might occur during the execution of the work. These delays would inevitably affect the end date of the project, representing also an emergency.
Basically, the competent Project Managers establish processes in advance in order to deal with these emergencies and the resulting changes.
In this way, they can respond to emergencies with the voice of experience rather than with reaction. Adaptability offers a better guarantee to the customer.
An agile mentality makes it possible to evaluate, listen, and communicate changes better, thus also creating a relationship of trust with the team, stakeholders, and the end customer.
Changes can take place at virtually every point in the life cycle of project management.
Having strategies in order to effectively deal with changes and manage emergencies is the most efficient way to stay focused on the success of the project and on the final goals, even in the face of what can sometimes seem like a constant change of direction.
Risk and emergency management
1. Avoid the risk or emergency
If it is already clear from the beginning that the activity of a project can have serious consequences, it is better to avoid it. For example, the simultaneous use of a production process for two products can compromise project planning. Instead, a project manager can avoid this risk by choosing a sequential production process.
2. Mitigate the risk or emergency
Look for all possible ways to reduce the occurrence of a risk. For example, you can decide to use a simplified and known production process if a more innovative and expensive production process can take longer and brings with it a high level of uncertainty about the final result.
3. Transfer the risk or emergency
To control the risk, it is possible to transfer it to an external supplier. For example, if the number of activities of a team is too large to allow their completion on time by internal resources, part of the activities can be subcontracted to an external supplier.
4. Learn from risks and emergencies
Not all risks and emergencies represent something negative. These can also open the door to opportunities. For example, if after analyzing the risks of a project, one realizes that the subsystem of a program can be commercialized, one can decide to reassign it to a part of the teams in order to develop it even more. The removal of part of the team from a project can represent an additional risk, but in this case, it is possible to compensate it with the opportunity achieved.
Lead the team through the change process
The team is fundamental to the success of any project, so it is essential to actively involve it in the emergency plan and in the management of process changes.
Here are 5 ways the Project Manager can quickly help the team during this process:
- Be open about emergencies, risks, and changes that will inevitably occur.
- Be open about the process. Most team members clearly will not know what will happen and what is expected of them until they have been notified. It is possible to organize a briefing where everyone can learn about their role within the emergency and change plan.
- Simplify as much as possible. The change in the project is often, at best, a controlled chaos. The team can consider an emergency, and the consequent changes, as upsetting and for this reason, it is necessary that the process is as simplified as possible. We must not forget that the team considers the Project Manager as a trusted guide.
- Be ready to help. A new way of working takes time to accept it and integrate successfully. The Project Manager must let the team know clearly that he is there to help them, at any time, in order to overcome the emergency together, just like a team.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. Not all changes in response to an emergency can be sensible proposals. The Project Manager must therefore let the team know that if the latter feels firmly convinced that a change is not the right decision for the Project, he will stand close to them and discuss the choice with the change applicant.
Not being able to manage the emergency and the change that inevitably follows is one of the first reasons why a project can go completely in disarray.
Having the right information and processes even before starting a Project and drawing up an emergency plan with the related possible changes, can make it possible to face risks and emergencies in a controlled, intelligent, and advantageous way for all those involved. This is certainly the way to bring the project to success.