Prepare For The Worst


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To truly be a successful Project Manager you have to have failed.  I don’t mean that in a negative connotation at all, but more just emphasizing the importance of failure.  Previously I know I talked a bit about the right way to fail, which was focused on how to handle yourself in a failure situation.  How we behave during a failure or difficulty shows a lot about our character, but there is more to failure then just that.  These terrible experiences shape us as people and will always make us better from it.  Whether it be the ability to better prepare for the next time around or new knowledge about how to react to certain situations, these low points positively impact us regularly. As a PM we know that the truth of the matter is not whether you are going to have a failure or some issue on a project, but when – so there are a few things we can do before, during and after a collapse.


When you notice that your project is heading towards failure, you should take action as quick as possible, but sometimes you don’t know when the failure is coming so there are a few things that can help you be prepared.

  • Cover You Bases
    • At my office we CYA – Cover your…… Always be ready for something to happen so document transactions and follow-up phone calls with emails for written evidence.
  • Create a crisis response team.
    • Work to identify common issues and train the right people on how to behave accordingly. Their education and quick reaction can quickly tame an unruly issue.
  • Look for signs.
    • Don’t let problems spiral out of control – look for ways to intercept them early on and avoid an issue altogether.

Mid Collapse:

This is probably the most critical indicator of how the crisis will play out.

  • Have your crisis team take action as soon as possible.
  • Collect all the information possible and make rational decisions – not instinctual
  • Evaluate the problem and assign your team tasks – prioritize their work.
  • Look for ways to contain the issue before focusing on elimination.

Post Failure:

  • Collect all the information from people and events
  • Stay rational and judicial, gut reactions get you in trouble quickly
  • Be ready to take ownership if needed

With anything, it’s important to always remember that failure is going to happy – focus on the positive outcomes rather than dwelling on the negative.  I know for me, even if someone on my team is responsible for the predicament that person is an asset and the issue is a hurdle that will make them even more valuable.  So when you go to work next, take a look at your system and ask, “Am I ready for a crisis?”


I was inspired to write this based on a blog by Wrike I recently read.  Thank you to them for the great information. 


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