Contingency planning: How well are you prepared?

They say that you often learn a lot of lessons from other people’s misdeeds or mishaps. Let me tell you about the project lessons, I learned from another project manager who literally got hit by a bus, lessons that I still keep in mind when planning my projects to this day.

The incident I am about to relate to you happened about ten years into my project management career. I had been quite successful in most of the projects that I was asked to oversee and manage. I was not a  “newbie” anymore, but I was constantly learning with every new project. None had been easy. Each project had had its share of trauma, but I managed to come out of each with more stories to tell and a considerable amount of best practices to apply going forward in my career.

One thing that was common to all of the projects that I had managed was the fact that I was assigned as the PM right at the point where the charter document was generated. I had actually generated quite a few myself, so I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. Most projects had supportive sponsors, and we were able to get the team members and stakeholders organized, engaged, and productive from the get-go.

There are varying scales of success for every project that we accomplished, but they were all completed more or less on time, on budget, and with stakeholder approval.

One particularly nice June morning, I was surprised to get called into the Partner’s office and to be sat down for a “talk.” You can imagine that a lot of things go through your mind when this happens. Well, none of the scenarios going through my mind were actually in play. So, I was not getting fired, I was not being demoted, and I was not relegated to desk duty, but I was being assigned to someone else’s project.

Early that morning on his way to work, another PM in our office had been hit by a commuter bus. It was more than likely going to take him a number of weeks if not months to be able to pick up his workload. A project that had, already passed the planning status, was on his roster and could not go into implementation without it being supported by another lead PM. I had been selected to step in.

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