Damage Control: Project Management In the Midst of a Crisis

Michael Applebaum

When disaster strikes, response time is everything. Whether it's a last-minute request to move up a looming deadline or an equipment failure that forces a facility shutdown, even a small brushfire can quickly rage out of control. And project managers are often the first line of defense.

“As the project manager, you have to limit the oxygen feeding the fire,” says Adriano Mota, PMP, a technology operations manager with the Organizing Committee for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

As tensions rise and tempers flare in an overheated crisis environment, a project manager must stay focused and provide calm, clear directions, says Dennis Huddleston, site manager at CH2M, an engineering and construction design company based in Englewood, Colorado, USA.

“That calming effect can have a tremendous impact on your team,” he says. “You want to clear their minds and focus, help them understand the hurdles and get those out of the way.”

EMERGENCY TRIAGE

In crisis mode, time is money. To avoid hemorrhaging funds while teams struggle with a suture, project managers need a proactive crisis management plan that focuses on communication and cooperation, says Mr. Huddleston. When a cooling water return line burst on one of his projects at a semiconductor manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, USA, partially flooding operating…

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