17.5.11

Guerilla Crisis Management

Guerilla Project Management is a lot about crisis. What starts as a quiet endeavor can sometimes transform in an ugly mess that needs to be handle. What to do then?

Let's first see how this is a huge opportunity for you and the project if handled right. In a project with a lot of adversity, there is a a long period of inefficiency, procrastination and lack of motivation. When the delay and the consequences can no longer be hidden, this is when the crisis strikes. But this is actually a big step forward, as this is the moment when various decision and power factors will be obliged to get involved. They will trigger the actions needed for the project to move forward, and will not tolerate lack of progress.

This is what I do:

1. Create a crisis cell. 4 is the lucky number for me, so I work with crisis cells that contain 4 people.
  • 1 person in the crisis cell has to be upper management in the Supplier team, such as a Supplier Resource Manager or Sponsor.
  • 1 person in the crisis cell is you, the Supplier's Guerilla Project Manager.
  • 1 person in the crisis cell is the Client's Project Manager. If that person is Guerilla as well, lucky for you.
  • 1 person in the crisis cell is the objective mediator of the different interests in the room. If that person is Guerilla as well, you are off for a good chance to recover.
2. How often to involve these important persons in the cell? The answer is daily (not full time, but daily monitoring is required).

3. What level to manage? Micro. Crisis means there is a lot to be done in a short amount of time, and people will need direction, prioritization and the feeling that there is at least 1 person that knows how to drive the boat. Plus, when trouble stirs, each person that is involved in the cell has to be able to answer whatever asked and make decision on the spot. Adversity is in the air and it is very important to present a realistic point of view when accusations flow.

What to do when these persons (especially client side) are not available? That is an unfortunate situation even for a Guerilla Project, but it is true that the Client can deny the need to be involved and will expect you, the Supplier, to solve all the problems by yourself. You now need to compensate for the lack of authority and involvement from the Client with effort from your own team.

You can still have a cell of 4, this time from your side only, that needs to micromanage the team. You need to secure though the Project Sponsor from the Supplier, as you need at least one door open in your own organization. The crisis cell should split their tasks at the "scope of work" level and manage both the Supplier and the Client's activity.

One last aspect about crisis management. "Finger-pointing" becomes king, as all people in the cell will need to escalate as soon as they spot something wrong that is not within their reach of authority. That is especially required where there is no counterparty from the client that can manage the client's activities in the required way. Escalating all the time requires mental strength and awareness that you, the Project Manager, will no longer be so popular among colleagues or even with the client. It is important that you are mandated by your manager to do so, or you risk becoming the escape-goat when your attitude will be escalated by those escalated by you. Or maybe, if you want a quick exit from the project, that's exactly what you need.. ;)