Thursday, September 1, 2011

Do You Have A Disaster Response Plan?

When your ship is sinking, there is not much time for planning. Every project needs a disaster response plan. Real disasters you may face include:

  • Technical, e.g., bad or missing information, flawed design

  • Financial, e.g., cost overrun, bankrupt client

  • Physical, e.g., subsurface conditions, construction conflicts

  • Temporal, e.g., permit denial, late client approval

  • Human, e.g., key team member quits, new client contact assigned

Some risks present in every project, e.g., computer network crash or fire in the office, may be best addressed at the department or business level. Others are project-specific and should be anticipated when planning the proposal and expanded upon at the Project Initiation Meeting. General components of a disaster response plan may include:

1. Talk and listen openly, honestly, and frequently with your client and team. Seek first to understand the facts and the situation. Then, lead decisively.

2. Minimize unnecessary effort/cost. Practice triage. Focus on what matters most. Conserve your time for the most essential decisions. Read the contract closely. Do no more than you must, no better than you must.

3. Renegotiate commitments when they cannot be met or actual conditions are significantly different from expectations.

4. Stop work: temporarily to avoid making conditions worse or permanent if there is no way you can execute the project successfully. Recognize reality and consider termination terms.

  • Understand the most brutal facts. What will it take to make this project right? Are you certain?

  • Determine the full cost of termination, not just returning any fees that have been paid. Are your reputation and this client worth the cost?

5. Start damage control promptly. Notify your insurance claims management team and get legal help before claims are made.

6. Never lose your cool, integrity, or sense of humor.

7. Once you have paid the tuition, be sure to get the education. Perform a frank, open, and blame free autopsy with your team so you can be better prepared before the next disaster occurs.

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