Disaster Recovery for Your Project

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Sure, we know that planning for disasters is a big part of managing sustainability and maintaining resilience. Organizations, municipalities and whole countries invest considerable time, energy and resources preparing to respond when the unthinkable happens.

But what happens when it's your project that's the disaster? How do you respond to that, and what—if anything—can you do to recover?

Projects are theoretically no stranger to disasters. The Standish Group has been publishing failure rates that have improved only slightly since they've begun reporting (with projects that are challenged or have failed outright still in the ballpark of 70%). And research into megaprojects by Bent Flyvbjerg and others has suggested that the bigger they come, the harder they fall (to the extent that they were ever set up for success in the first place, which is even more questionable).

So, you would think that the average, well-prepared project manager would have disaster on their minds. Sadly, this doesn't seem to be the case.

How we approach risk management is a really good example of this phenomenon in action. Risk management is not a new thing. It is also not—if we're being scrupulously honest about it—a terribly complicated thing. We think about what might go wrong (or, for extra bonus points, what might go right), how likely that is …

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"A good composer is slowly discovered. A bad composer is slowly found out."

- Sir Ernest Newman

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