Jun 082011

A Project Manager may have planned for almost every risk in his project plan but forced majeure, ignorance, human error, and changing laws, technology or business demand are bound to strike a disaster (Major risk that may cause Project to fail) that no Project Manager can plan. However, how we perform before and during a disaster, and how soon and successfully we recover from a disaster matters the most. Below are the activities that increase the chances of a Project recovering successfully from a disaster.

Before the disaster
  1. Maintain Risk Register: Risk register (list of risks and corresponding mitigation /contingency plan) should be frequently reviewed and updated document. Risk Register should be readily accessible to every team member.
  2. Encourage risk awareness and document the risks: Project team should be well-versed with the risks and mitigation/contingency plan. Project team should be encouraged to identify risks in their focus-area and get those risks registered in Risk Register. A seemingly small risk to a person may be a lurking disaster.
  3. Plan the project well: Disaster cannot always be predicted so project team may not prepare for contingency and mitigation for all kind of disasters. However, if all other project activities have been well planned then impact of a disaster greatly reduces.
  4. Equip the team well to handle disaster.
  5. Promote communication in team so that team can collaboratively face and overcome disaster.
During the disaster
  1. Do as planned: If a risk has been identified in Risk Register then follow the contingency and mitigation plan as much as possible. Stakeholders may try to influence the direction of project, however, strategy prepared with much deliberation earlier may be better than do-whatever-it-takes approach in a disaster.
  2. Isolate the disaster from regular project activities. Tendency should be to gradually reduce the size of disaster and move the effort from disaster management to regular project activities.
  3. Communicate appropriately to stakeholders and sponsor about the disaster. Stakeholders may help to eliminate the disaster.
  4. Do whatever it takes to contain and mitigate the disaster. Mobilize the resources, work on war-scale, overtime, out of the box thinking etc.
  5. Document (as much as possible) the actions performed during disaster situation.
After the disaster
  1. Clean up after your mess: Review the activities performed during disaster recovery. Documentation of actions during the disaster may come handy to review if any decision has been hastily taken, and it may need to be reverted or systematically changed. Follow Change Management Process so as not to trigger another disaster.
  2. Perform Root Cause Analysis and encourage participation without any fear. More risks identified from a disaster should be documented in risk register.
  3. Appreciate those whose actions were commendable to bring the project out of disaster. On the other hand, you may also need to review or let go those who did not perform well.


I have seen the above strategy work very well in IT industry and I am confident that the same strategy will work in every disaster situation. All projects may not come out of a disaster but chances of a project recovering from disaster increases by following the above strategy.

How many times disasters have struck your project? Did you use the strategy listed in this post? Are there more activities that may help a project overcome a disaster? Please join the discussion.

  One Response to “Disaster Strikes”

  1. [...] is cheaper than spending million dollars in law suits because of accidents (late expenses). We know disaster strikes, when, no one knows.Disaster management plan can be impractical – Corporations in New Jersey/New [...]

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