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Time management - Crisis management

Crisis management

What is it?

Even if you do no planning you will have a vague idea of what will be happening during the typical working day.
This may be somewhere near correct or more than likely a long way out.
If this ‘routine’ is disturbed in someway the average persons tries to take some sort of corrective action to put things back on track. We intrinsically exhibit control albeit mostly very poorly.

When these ‘disturbances’ from our grand plan are minor and frequent we often call this ‘fire-fighting’. They mostly form an irritation and may not be necessarily of high impact. Even so the poorly organised manager with no concept of Time Manager will waste their time in trying to fix them.
Most of these minor problems could have been foreseen with better planning.

A true crisis is one that has:

  • Major impact
  • Largely unpredictable
  • Needs urgent attention


It is fairly clear that if the planning process is much better the flow of tasks will proceed much more smoothly minimising problems and issues.

There can be some confusion between ‘risk’ and ‘issue’

Risk A potential event that may have a detrimental effect on time, cost, quality and deliverables.
Issue This is an unpredicted event that requires a decision otherwise a negative effect on the project may result.

Planning properly (particularly for company projects) involves a lot of consideration involving:

  • What must be done? Sorting out objectives and scope.
  • How? Selection of a project strategy.
  • Who? Assigning roles and authority.
  • When? Scheduling of the tasks.
  • Cost? Development of budgets.
  • How good should the ‘product’ be. Thinking about quality.
  • What performance is required. Need performance specifications.

The total subject of planning is too detailed to go into here but is thoroughly covered elsewhere [see ‘The Complete Project Management package’] and [see 'The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2'] in this series.

Basically you will need a plan of all the things you consider will happen and you will need to complete.

Contingency planning

When you have your plan it will consist of predicted events that you expect will happen.
However, there will be a series of activities that you believe could happen but you don’t expect to actually occur.
These particular ‘risks’ will have a detrimental affect on the project if they occur.

If they do occur you will need to have a game plan in place to alleviate or eliminate their adverse affect on the project.

A risk has 2 aspects to it:

  • How likely is it to happen (probability)?
  • What is its impact?

If a risk has LOW probability and LOW impact you could probably ignore it completely.
However, for HIGH probability and HIGH impact make contingency plans. Other combinations require more consideration before drawing up contingency plans.

These are plans put into place on the chance that a risk will happen. In practice, a ‘trigger’ will exist to implement the plan when it looks as though the risk is about to occur. The trigger will minimise any time delays just waiting for the risk to materialise. This will mean you reserving resource or finance for its implementation. These plans will represent the response to a particular risk threat and a departure from the base plan. They are ‘reactive’ plans.

You will need to consider the implications of ownership for contingency plans.
As for the base plans do not add more detail than necessary as this can be added at the trigger stage to generate the action plan.
The contingency plan forms part of a series of plans:

  • Initial plan
  • Reference plan
  • Base plan
  • Contingency plan
  • Horizon plan
  • Action plan

These and many other aspects of risk management within project management are covered in much more detail elsewhere [see ‘The Complete Project Management package’] and [see 'The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2'] in this series.

For most activities a simpler system could suffice.
We could use a template to derive some contingency plans see Word file ‘contingency plan template’.
Found in the product package.

The problem with bad news is that people don’t want to hear it.
This can create a climate of fear in a company where the culture is to look for a scapegoat.

If people are allowed to fail then they will be much more likely to report potential problems (in this case possible triggers).
Small problems can be dealt with before they escalate into a major crisis.

Non - PRINCE2 information