Hurricane season is upon us, and while the news channels are showing footage of storm surge and downed palm trees, there are also a number of project management lessons we can learn from watching how humans interact with Mother Nature’s worst storms.
Forecasting: Hurricanes prompt a variety of forecasts, from the storm’s expected path and speed to which roads should be opened or closed. Use a similar approach to project management. In addition to planning a detailed timeline, your team should also be constantly evaluating how budget numbers look at every stage in the project; where potential glitches, such as labor or material delays, could affect downstream activities; and how team members’ workloads will be distributed during critical periods.
Prioritizing: Hurricanes don’t wait for regions to be ready to receive them, so people must often prioritize preparation activities—installing storm shutters, laying sandbags—over other tasks in order to complete them before the storm arrives. Project managers can apply a similar methodology. Look at your project’s crucial milestones and ensure you’ve freed up enough resources to accomplish what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. When one activity slips, it can affect the entire schedule, so it’s better to bone up on your prioritization skills than spend an entire project playing catch up.
Evaluating: The Gulf Coast learns new lessons after each hurricane, but that knowledge never comes easily. Take the time after every project to carefully and deliberately evaluate what went right, as well as what didn’t. Look for everything from minor inefficiencies to critical failures, and work with your team to implement changes that will avoid the same mistakes next time. And remember: placing blame will often just distract your team from the real task at hand. Instead, focus on functional areas and activities objectively.