My Project Management Expert

Contingency Risks

In the real world, Project Manager's rarely have enough time to detail contingency approach let alone contingency risks. Certainly in 13 years of Interim Project Management that has been my experience. However recently that changed with the emergence of Swine Flu.

The project I had been brought in to turnaround had as always, ridiculously tight deadlines and no contingency with regard to budget. I had managed to do some project contingency planning regarding the main project risks and had left it at that. There was after all far to much work to be done actually turning around the project and getting it delivered.

One of the project risks had been regarding the possible lack of experienced resources available to do the work required. This was particularly key since a large number of live issues were occurring which needed fast resolutions plus another major project was about to launch. Between the two of them, they were sucking off resources from my project at short notice. It basically was a situation where creating a project plan was a waste of time.

I had however done some project risk management and had determined that it was possible to make up the time lost once the other project had launched, as long as all their resources immediately moved onto mine. Of course this was all dependent on that project launching on time and the live issues reducing, but everyone agreed that it seemed like a good plan B.

That was until Swine Flu reared it's ugly head. One day it was a big story in the newspapers, the next month resources were dropping like flies with it. What I had failed to realise was that whilst most resources drove to work, and hence should have had a lower risk of catching it, the vast majority also had small children, who of course tend to catch everything.

Worse stil, unlike normal flu, the Organisation's policy was that anyone who had Swine Flu had to stay at home for a minimum of 1 week and not come back until they had completed a course of Tamiflu. So before long, a team of 20 had halved to become a team of just 10.

It was a disaster. The original project deadlines were now completely unachievable. Luckily though I had done some prior work concerning the contingency approach to scope. This mean't I already had a clear idea of what could be de-scoped without it drastically reducing the functionality the end user would see.

The project sponsor's agreed to this with the caveat that the functionality de-scoped would need to be developed, tested and deployed as a release 2 within 6 months of the project launching.

So the end result was that what would have been the end for the majority of projects, was mitigated and best of all everyone including Project Sponsors, Project Team and end users were happy with the result.

Contingency Risks - Tip

It is far better to spend the time ensuring your project delivers rather than on contingency risks. However it does make sense to do some project contingency planning around the major risks which could destroy your project should they materialise simply because being prepared for the unexpected is a key trait all project manager's should have.

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