Prepare for the Unexpected

Posted by admin on Apr. 7, 2020  /  Spotlights, Home Page Highlights  /   2

Prepare for the Unexpected

Jeff Meyer, PMI Houston contributor


Emergency preparedness and contingency planning are a very important part of project planning. If you can proactively prepare for an event, it can help you better prepare to achieve the success you had hoped for in your project. The more proactive you can be in your pursuit, the easier it will be to reach your ultimate solution. That does not mean last-minute solutions should not also be part of your plan; you need to expect the unexpected. Many times in my project management career, environmental events and quickly evolving situations have challenged my projects or even created more projects in search of resolution. Taking quick actions and being prepared for unanticipated situations have helped me turn those problems into opportunities.


In light of current events, many professionals are scrambling to fulfill safety regulations and still operate normally. Of course, you cannot be prepared for every event, but you can set goals and expectations and be prepared to move when disaster strikes.  Being prepared with safety suppliers and knowing not only where you can get additional PPE but also having some less conventional suppliers handy can provide critical equipment to keep your production flowing. This also applies to raw materials; if supplies are cut off due to logistic issues, make sure you have an appropriate backup which is diversified enough to avoid a supply crisis. This might take nurturing that supplier over the course of many years. It’s a good idea to keep all supplier relationships current for just such eventualities. Likewise, awareness of the full extent of what your vendors’ products and services can mean you will be better equipped to make use of them in challenging situations.


One of the most important parts of being prepared for the unexpected is just keeping your head up. Being able to identify the iceberg before you hit it makes it much easier to determine the new route before you have no choice but to go down with the ship. Add watching the news, local and worldwide, as part of your preparation, but don’t limit yourself to what is on television. Industry news and inter-company news like trade and industry publications will help you keep track of trends and issues that affect your projects.


A major piece of project management is risk management and identifying those risks is the first step, but your crisis plan doesn’t stop there. Brainstorming “what if’s” and preliminary preparation should be at appropriate levels, and a plan formulated for crisis management. Having a good plan in place to address unexpected occurrences can make those less of a challenge by making them more expected, and therefore manageable.


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  1. David Rich

    May. 3, 2020

    Well said. I'd like to add a recommendation to step outside of PMI for contingency planning. Most people reading this will be familiar with project risk, but may be unaware of operational, financial, and other risk methodologies. These approaches have some similarity to project risk - e.g. probability and impact are important. But operational risks might never be retired, while all project risks will eventually go away. Another interesting and related topic in operational risk is resilience; which is 'getting the system back online' after a risk event occurs and the impact is realized. If you're interested in these topics, you may consider starting with a review of the critical asset risk approach developed after the 9/11 attacks ( and go from there. There are also many risk discussions ongoing as a result of COVID 19.

  2. Grace Miller

    Apr. 13, 2020

    Thanks for the helpful advice Jeff!



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