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Your monthly dose of Project Management articles.

How does a project manager lead in a project crisis and turn the ship around before it sinks? (by Sean)

If the project manager (PM) waits until a crisis hits before preparing, there’s little doubt why the project is in crisis. Regardless of a project’s scope and scale, the prudent PM first performs a Vulnerability Assessment on the overall project. S/he needs to:

  1. Brainstorm the potential risks;
  2. Prioritize them into a ranked order of likely occurrence;
  3. Identify a person responsible for managing each of these potential outcomes who, in turn, prepares a detailed response plan for that potentiality;
  4. Communicate to the project team who is responsible for each risk; and,
  5. Condense all the individual vulnerabilities and remediation strategies from the responsible manager(s) into a single document that is frequently tested and widely shared across the project team.

As a wise senior leader once shared, “You can delegate responsibility but you can never delegate accountability.” Following that axiom, the PM holds ultimate accountability but successfully managing a crisis is not a one-person job.  If the team accurately assessed its most vulnerable areas and then effectively executed the response plan, then the team will have successfully managed the crisis.  If the team failed to properly identify all of its vulnerabilities, then no pithy soundbite to a news reporter or sizable donation to a community charity will erase the stigma of the team’s failure.

As an aside, in The Institute for Crisis Management’s 30-year history, it has found more than 50% of all companies are unprepared for when crisis hits so its never a shock when a prospective client advises no contingency plan exists.

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Sean Clancy

About author

Chief communications strategist and advisor to the President/CEO’s

SEAN S. CLANCY serves as chief communications strategist and advisor to the President/CEO’s and senior leadership teams of global FORTUNE 1000 corporations, non-profit agencies and privately held companies.  

In his current role as Vice President and Senior Consultant with the Institute for Crisis Management, Clancy delivers crisis communications strategies to companies experiencing acute reputation damaging circumstances in addition to providing crisis communication planning and training to client companies.  

During his corporate career, he guided the C-suites of The Shaw Group, the Flowserve Corporation, the Union Carbide Corporation, The Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, Rhone-Poulenc Basic Chemicals, Akzo Nobel and the National Safety Council through such public policy issues and major crises as the lingering aftermath of the Bhopal, India chemical accident; Superfund site remediations, asbestos litigation; global tobacco industry litigation; Sarbanes-Oxley compliance issues; shareholder litigation; illegal chemical dumping that contributed to a child cancer cluster; chemical plant explosions; workplace fatalities and lifestyle/workplace safety regulation campaigns.

A former print journalist and credible, articulate corporate spokesperson, he coached senior executives for high profile interviews on 60 MINUTES, DATELINE, and FRONTLINE, as well as other significant print & electronic placements.  

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations from Northern Illinois University.  

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