Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crisis Control - introduction

Crisis, as defined by Answers.com:
A highly volatile dangerous situation requiring immediate remedial action.


This can be as trivial as running out of coffee, or as serious as your biggest international customer's database crashing.

Whereas Risk Assessment is the art of preventing a crisis, when a crisis happens, a Project Manager has to know how to take control and remedy the situation in the fastest possible way.

To highlight the difference between Risk Assessment and Crisis Control, let us compare 2 typical scenarios:
  • Risk Assessment:
    • Ensuring the building complies with fire codes:
      • Bright EXIT signs at appropriate places
      • A working sprinkler system
    • Employee awareness of where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them
    • Periodic visits by the fire department to test the systems
    • Company lectures on fire safety
  • Crisis Control:
    • Somebody faints. You don't call a meeting, you don't do a web search, you don't start checking your cellular for a Doctor's number. You immediately shout for help:
      • "Call an ambulance"
      • "Who is a paramedic?"
      • Do elementary first aid
In a development environment, you would typically take the following steps:
  • Inform all those who need to be informed
  • Call an immediate meeting of all related people
    • Discover the scope of the crisis
    • Define it's urgency
    • Shrink the meeting to a minimum of people
  • Create a Tiger Team who will be in charge of the crisis
    • The Tiger Team would drop all other work and concentrate on solving the crisis
    • The Tiger Team has the authority to use any resources they need
The Project Manager's task should be to walk around from one team member to the next, ensuring they are concentrating on the crisis, escalating issues that are not easily solved, and disseminating frequent status reports.

In a future post we will discuss what to do after a crisis, besides for informing everybody that the crisis is solved, and that everybody should go back to their regular tasks.

- Danny




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