Contingency Planning Strategies for Success

Though your project office may be skilled at developing workable contingency plans, there are a few steps many teams still overlook. If you want to raise your game—and boost your Project Team’s ability to achieve the best results—consider adding these contingency planning strategies to your tool box.

Determine the factors that will trigger each contingency plan.
Don’t waste time debating within the team whether or not the environment is right to fall back on a contingency plan. Instead, call out those scenarios in advance so the team can quickly spot them and continue moving the project forward. Receiving notification that a critical piece of equipment is delayed or that market conditions have changed are common triggers for contingency plan activation, but each project will have a unique set of factors.

Set a clear timeframe for implementation.
If contingency plans share an Achilles heel, it’s that project teams delay their implementation too long. Waiting to make the call only leaves the team scrambling to catch up under conditions that could already be very challenging. Instead, identify the go/no-go decision on activating a contingency plan as a firm date within the project schedule. The team can then shift gears and still have time to complete the tasks in their assigned area per the plan.

Designate who will make the decision to activate a contingency plan.
This strategy isn’t designed to limit who can give the official signal to implement contingent activities. Rather, it avoids the situation where no one thinks it’s their call to make, thus delaying the implementation and setting off confusion within the team. By identifying one person, or even a small group of people, to make the formal decision and announce the contingency plan’s activation, you can be sure that everyone is on the same page and the team will be able to adjust their efforts without disruption.

Proactively assign tasks to specific people in the team.
With everything the project team needs to accomplish, it can be tempting to put together a bare framework for the various contingency plans, leaving some details undefined such as who will be responsible for the tasks that may be added to the project sequence. Don’t throw workflows into disarray as team members try to accommodate unexpected tasks. Instead, let everyone know during the planning phase which contingent activities they may be called to execute.

Identify resource disparities.
There’s a good chance the original project plan’s resource requirements aren’t the same as those in any contingency scenarios—different materials, different labor levels, or other modifications. Rather than be caught by surprise by the changes, take the time during the planning phase to earmark what will be required in each contingency plan. This avoids the problem of having a workable path to move forward but not enough resources to execute the necessary activities.

Know who needs to be in the loop.
Early in the planning stages, during the development of each contingency plan, it’s prudent to create a list of everyone who should be notified if that plan is activated. Will the legal team need to review a new contract or modify an existing agreement? Will the accounting group need to issue new budget codes before purchases can be made under the contingency plan? Is a new vendor coming on board who will need credentials to access facilities or systems? Having a list ready to go of every internal and external partner who must take action in the event a contingency plan goes live will save the team valuable time in bringing stakeholders up to speed and keeping the project schedule on track.

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