Tips for Managing Projects Through Turmoil

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Projects succeed and projects fail. According to some survey statistics that have been presented in the past couple of years projects fail to some degree and based on some criteria or another between 56% and 74% of the time. Stats like those ensure us of two things:

  • That managing projects isn’t easy
  • That project success is never a sure thing no matter how good you are as a project manager

Now, if you throw in some other variables, life as a project manager gets even harder. Take, for example, company turmoil or major organizational change. What if your company is experiencing major layoffs? What if fraud was revealed high in the organization (I’ve personally had to deal with that one with a client – it was our CEO who was fraudulent and I got the chance to break that news to my project client before the news was public. That kind of information is not easy to share with your project client, but it has to be done.). Or what if your organization is going through a major restructuring phase causing uncertainty in the organization and possibly with your client base? The potential list of issues is endless.

No matter what is happening in your organization or industry that is causing concern or unrest, the key to continued solid project delivery to your project clients is often to stay the course. With that said, there are some tips to follow to ensure the best possible outcome and the highest possible level of continued customer confidence in the face of the changes or turmoil. These are:

Full disclosure to the customer

This may seem obvious to some and it may seem crazy to others. But chances are – like in my extreme example cited above – if your internal company issue is big enough then your customer will likely find out about it sooner or later. Big layoffs coming? Your customer will eventually find out. Fraud in the organization? Your customer will eventually find out. Would you rather they find out on the news or even from a competitor of yours….or would you rather they hear it from you? They have to hear it from you first if at all possible. Hearing it from you first is the best possible way to separate your project delivery from the turmoil or trouble and keep their confidence high concerning your integrity and continued ability to deliver on their project.

Practicing the best communication possible

This will involve several angles – your customer, your stakeholders, your project team and anyone else even remotely involved in the project. The key is to conduct regular meetings and keep them…don’t cancel. Stay the course through the turmoil – even if you don’t have much to say at a scheduled meeting….still have it. You never know when a small piece of information may be shared that would otherwise fall through the cracks. If you don’t already have one, create a communication plan for your project so everyone knows the contact information for the main points of contact on the project. When turmoil or change hits the organization and threatens the success of your project, this type of information can help ensure that individuals know where to go to give and get up to date information.

Keeping close watch on project financials

This one is critical anyway, but when change is happening in the organization that causes any unrest or stress at all among project team members or anyone involved in the project, things can happen that affect the budget of your project which is hard enough to manage even in the best of times. Team members who are working on multiple projects may become a bit unfocused when it comes to tracking and charging their time to projects. You don’t want that to affect your project so watch closely how time is being charged.

Keep resources engaged and focused on assigned tasks

Finally, keep your resources focused on the forward progress of the project tasks they are working on. Using a solid task management tool like Taskworld with great reporting and collaboration capabilities is often the best way to ensure team awareness, engagement and accountability for their assigned tasks.  Anything you can do to keep them focused on their jobs and on the goals and mission of the project helps to keep their minds off the issues affecting other parts of the organization.

Tools like Taskworld bring clarity in times of chaos

Summary / call for input

Change and organizational rest isn’t easy to live through. It can be very stressful. The same goes for managing projects even in the best of times. Throw the two together and you’ve created a very challenging environment for even the most experienced project managers to lead project engagements through. Readers – what are your thoughts on this list? What would you change about it or add to it? Please share your thoughts and own experiences and discuss.

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland has written this article on behalf of Taskworld. Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM author with over 25 years experience as a developer, manager, project manager and consultant.

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