Managing Project Resources in Crisis Mode

crisis modeManaging resources on any project can be difficult enough.  Managing resources on a project in crisis mode can be an entirely different animal.  And the crisis can be anything.  It can be never-ending issues as you are approaching go-live.  It can be a crisis with your customer requesting requirements changes deep into the project engagement when the solution is nearly finished and the concept of changing such things can mean weeks or months added to the project and hundreds of thousands of dollars.  While that sounds enticing from a financial standpoint, the management of such a situation while trying to keep a likely flustered customer happy can be extremely challenging.

Resource Usage Management

When managing resources on any engagement it is imperative to stay on top of project resource management and usage, as that is a key ingredient to the budget health of the project.  But it can be especially critical to the success of the project during a crisis mode as resource usage may rise or the tendency to need to bring on new resource may increase, creating some serious budget issues in the process.  Ensuring that resources are onboarded to the project at the right time is critical, as idle resources can cost the project precious dollars when those resources’ time has to be charged somewhere.  So bring them on not too late but not too early either.  And keep one eye on the budget at all times – it’s the best way to see how your project team members are charging out their work on their tasks and the best way to keep the financial health of the project in check as everyone is focusing hard on the crisis situation for the project.

Resource Communication Management

Another thing that every project manager needs to make sure they are doing when the project is running in crisis mode is to maintain close communication with their project resources at all times.  Team members who are not kept in the loop may try to take matters into their own hands or make critical decisions without including the project manager. That is never good – unless the PM Is otherwise detained and something has to be done now…and even then a team member who is not in a leadership position really must reach out to some senior staff to back them up in the decision making process. Project collaboration with your team is always a necessity, but never is it more important to keep everyone on the same page than during a project crisis situation.

Resource Conflict Management

When stress levels are high, conflicts can happen. Conflict management is an area of responsibility for the project manager that is essential, but not often necessary.  However, when key resources are running down issues and possibly working 24/7 to do so, conflicts can arise.  Wise resource management is necessary to work through these situations….ideally by meeting with the conflicting resources individually to listen to the issues, bringing the resources together to jointly discuss what has happened, and then helping both sides to refocus on the goals of the project and the crisis at hand.  Resource replacement may be necessary…but far less than ideal because it can be a serious budget drain as learning curves for any new resources can eat into project profits and timeframes in your project planning software.


Crisis management isn’t fun, can be a serious and extreme test of any project manager’s abilities and experience, and can be a critical point in the project manager-customer relationship.  However, if we practice good resource management during such crisis times we can keep our project resources efficiently and effectively assigned to the right tasks, keep them focused on what is best for the project and customer, and keep them well informed so that everyone is on the same page.  The bottom line for any project manager is communication, communication, communication…and never is that more apparent than during crisis situations.

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM author with over 25 years experience as a developer, manager, project manager and consultant.