When extreme external factors like an outbreak of the Coronavirus threaten to derail your project and shut down your workplace, how can you keep your projects moving forward?
- Conduct a risk analysis – qualitative and quantitative and review the results
- Prepare mitigation plans and where risks have been realized, enact the risk response
- Review project contracts for terms and conditions and what your and your customers response should/must be
- Key employees, subcontractors, supply chain, maintenance of equipment, etc. are areas to look into immediately
- Review and enact business continuity plans
- Lay out a communications plan for the project and employ it consistently; insist that your team members follow the plan and coordinate all communications through someone who is in charge of this
More employees are working remotely from home than ever before. The USA now has increased its remote working from 4 days to 5 days up from 24% -31% in the last year. The UK market has increased by a fifth in the last 10 years, currently with approximately 1.5 million people working from home.
There are many types of technology which can help employees with working remotely, whether this is the norm for them or if they have to self-quarantine because of the Coronavirus. Advances in technology enable staff to manage their data from anywhere and on any device. And, if your organization uses Primavera EPPM, then employees can access the database remotely via the web interface.
Actions You and Your Team Can Take
- Lead by example:
- Stay informed and share information with your team regularly; consider setting up morning meeting to review latest information
- Use only official sources of information
- State and Local Health Departments
- Mitigate fear by quashing any derogatory comments about others or populations affected by the disease – in fact the entire world is affected. We are in this together
- Stick with information as it comes out from various authoritative sources, i.e. CDC, NIH, DHHS, etc.
- Challenge anything that is not from an official source
- Lead by example
- Be flexible and adapt and encourage your team to do the same
- Coordinate with your leadership team – above, direct reports, and key business functions such as HR and IT in how to respond and what to communicate
- Communicate with your customer and stakeholders to share your analysis, assessment and action plans to address the threat; update them regularly
- Soap and water: wash hands regularly Here is link to WHO site with instructions for washing hands most effectively https://www.who.int/gpsc/clean_hands_protection/en/
- After using, close lid of toilet before flushing
- Avoid touching your face
- Consider wearing disposable gloves if you are in high contact situations
- Masks and eye protection: Masks are considered of limited value unless you are infected or dealing with infected people. However, if you feel safer, then wear one. You must dispose of it properly, because of the risk of the virus being on the outside of he mask
- Delay or limit use of service providers, e.g. meal delivery, repair professionals (e.g. HVAC, plumbers, et al)
- Remove shoes when entering space
- Avoid touching surfaces, e.g. countertops, vending machines, desks; and, wash your hands after doing so
- Social distancing
- Avoid public events, face to face meetings. This could include conferences, trainings, management meetings, volunteer events, etc.
- Bump elbows or touch shoes or just greet each other verbally or with nod of head
- Use email, video (Zoom, Go-To-Meeting, Microsoft Teams, et al)
- Travel to other countries has been restricted and will remain in effect until the crisis is over – plan accordingly
- Develop a plan for what to do when it arrives
- Look for sources of information:
- Useful Books/Pubs
- Families with children or elderly
- Schools may be shut down for extended periods of time (in China schools in Wuhan are expected to be closed for 4 months)
- Elderly and those with chronic conditions (e.g. autoimmune diseases, diabetes, smokers, etc. (see CDC) – are more susceptible to the disease and have a higher mortality rate
- If an employee contracts the disease, require that employee to stay in self quarantine for 14 days
- Check in regularly with those who are quarantined
- Identify all who may have encountered the infected individual and monitor them
- Allow work-from-home
- Provide computers and monitors
- Set up regular contact with work-from-home team members
- Look for sources of information:
Other External Factors That May Pose a Risk to Projects
There are plenty of other risks other than the Coronavirus that can negatively affect your projects. Natural disasters like the 2010 ash cloud over Iceland. As well as stopping all air travel for 8 days and halting 107,000 flights, the cost to European business was approximately 2.5 billion Euros.
Recent technology breakdowns at major airports have left customers stranded with all flights grounded. Recently, Gatwick airport in the UK was shut down due to a mischievous drone flying across the runways.
These types risks can occur at any time and necessitate the need for a project manager to develop contingency plans.
Organizations need to adopt contingency plans in these times of crisis to stay ahead and keep their projects on track. When developing contingency plans, you need to identify the threats that can harm your project.
- Trigger -By stating the trigger you can specify what will cause you to put your contingency plan into action. For example, if you have a contingency plan for snow will it be triggered by an actual snowfall or by a severe weather warning?
- Identify– the key people who need to know, this may include employees, customers, and stakeholders. Ensure there is effective communication.
- Key Responsibilities– who will be in charge at each stage of the plan.
- Timeline– state what needs to be done in the first hour, day or week of the plan. For example, in the first hour, it may be just informing all employees. Try to state when the organization will be able to resume normality.
Contingency plans can be made for other threats to your project like loss of data or employees leaving suddenly.
There are many types of risk which can derail a project, other than the Coronavirus. Common ones many project managers face regularly include severe weather, travel disruption or the failure to retain staff.
Contingency plans should be drawn up before the project start date to mitigate as much negative impact as possible and to ensure it remains on track. With a good risk plan in place, when disruption to your project occurs, you can repel the threat. With increasing numbers of employees working from home together with advancing technology, the Coronavirus risk may be mitigated this time around.