Bill Washinski


It can be said that the truest measure of a leader – in Project Management – or in any other field is how they react during a crisis situation.

When adults are faced with uncertainty, the brain is hard-wired to fill in the gaps of complete information with assumptions.  Ironically, this is the same trait that makes asking questions a skill to master vs. going to what your brain defaults to, which is filling in the gaps of uncertainty with assumptions.

As a leader, you will be looked to more than ever in this situation.  It’s also the greatest opportunity to take control and put everyone’s mind at ease. 

Here are 5 steps for a Project Manager to take in a crisis like Coronavirus:

  1. Get Information.  You cannot solve the problems until you yourself know the scope of them.  Do not react immediately, take the time to get collected and make sure you are illustrating calm in the midst of the storm.  Delegate select team members to help gather information and collaborate to the next step.
  2. Take Prompt Action.  Once you gather the proper information, move swiftly to act appropriately.  Maintain composure and be deliberate in your actions – do not compound the situation with a further mistake.  As legendary former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden put it “Be quick but don’t hurry.”
  3. Communicate. You cannot control the “crisis” but you can control the reaction.  When you communicate, make certain your demeanor stays calm as you have to re-set expectations.  Things have been disrupted and you may not have all the answers immediately.  However, getting the immediate changes known and understood is crucial.  Do not hide the magnitude of the situation; but do not allow panic to set in.  Let it be known the steps towards solution.
  4. Manage New Expectations.  People tend to discount bad things happening to them, so they discount the chance that it will.  However, when it does, they want to get past it soon as possible.  Unfortunately, it does not always come with a quick solution.  Again, do not shy away from the facts, that it could be a challenge to overcome.  Get certainty back into the picture and understood.  Even if the situation is very bad, but there is a solution and a plan, there is a greater sense of calm.
  5. Take Action.  Get involved, do not just delegate.  When you are seen as working towards the solution, it motivates others to do the same.  Action cures fear and irrationality.  The solution may even have to change due to circumstances beyond your control but act accordingly, adapt and keep moving forward.