create a crisis—because missing the deadline would
have had a ripple effect on other projects.
He responded by outlining three options for the
business team: skip the scope change and finish the
project quickly; extend the deadline to account for
the change; or use more resources to expand the
scope and complete the project on time. The business team chose the latter, and Mr. Marotti says his
strong relationship with the project’s sponsor set a
positive tone that helped him defuse the threat.
“I believe the sponsors were willing to entertain
the various options because they trusted my experience in this situation,” he says.
On the flip side, failure to manage stakeholder
concerns can make a bad situation even worse,
says Chantee’ Fatt, PMP, manager, risk services,
PMI Global Executive Council member PwC, Melbourne, Australia.
For instance, when Ms. Fatt took on a project to
roll out an enterprise operational resilience project
across multiple lines of business for a U.S. telecommunications firm, she quickly found herself facing
unexpected hostility. Entrenched political problems had pitted the engineering team against her
team, and the conflict was creating the potential
for project delays. So Ms. Fatt started by going
straight to the source.
“We tried to have a candid group conversation,
Their emails were passive aggressive and the
face-to-face meetings were confrontational. We kept
trying different ways to express our support and
understand why they weren’t sharing information. It
was a slow-burning crisis.”
To control the situation, Ms. Fatt arranged for
other managers who had a strong relationship with
her team to meet with the engineers, promote the
project and build buy-in. Getting senior leaders to
vouch for her team soothed the relationship with
the engineers and gave them time to re-scope the
project to ensure enterprise-wide adoption, Ms.
When a crisis arises, project managers need a clear plan of
“IN A CRISIS, YOUR
action. According to Eugene Atangan, PMP, assistant vice presi-
dent, operational risk management for enterprise technology,
PMI Global Executive Council member TD Bank, Toronto, On-
tario, Canada, project teams should heed the following steps
to prepare for—and resolve—a project emergency:
Project managers should partner with
the company’s enterprise and operational risk management
teams to identify which risks have the most potential to
spark a crisis. Managing the risk register will reduce the prob-
ability of a crisis—or minimize the impact of one.
Assign a communications leader and
define a clear chain of command for the crisis management
plan. Set up a command post or “war room” to manage the
crisis. If possible, perform a crisis simulation drill with the
team prior to the start of the project.
Don’t bog down recovery efforts by
playing the blame game. If executives or stakeholders are
demanding answers during a crisis, assign one team member
to update them on mitigation and resolution efforts.
After the team resolves the crisis,
review lessons learned to highlight what went right and what
went wrong. Share the project’s updated crisis management
plan so it can be leveraged on other projects.
Don’t prolong a crisis if a viable resolution
doesn’t exist. If contingency plans fail, it might be time to
talk to the sponsor about terminating the project to avoid
sinking additional time and resources into a problem that
can’t be fixed. The termination threshold should be deter-
mined at the start of the project rather than during a crisis.
“This will minimize the risk of ‘paralysis by analysis’ and de-
pendency decisions born out of emotion,” Mr. Atangan says.
BIGGEST ALLY IS YOUR
THE SPONSOR AND
—Joshua Marotti, CAPM, PMP, KPMG, Montvale, New Jersey, USA