2 min read

Plan B

Things change daily on projects. As a project manager, you always want to know what's happening. The problem is, when you don't have your hands in the work, you don't know exactly where it stands at all times. We're always looking out for "risks" and assessing the situation. The thing is, there is one inherent risk that is hard to take into account: the unexpected time out of the office. What happens when a project task comes to a grinding hault when there's a staff change (sick day, leave, fired...)?

You scramble to come up with a Plan B.

It's not easy to arrive at a backup plan quickly, especially when the sitemap fiie, PSD, or code was saved to the person's desktop. There is no way to assess where the work stands, and how much rework would need to be done to get to the point where they left it. This is a scenario that all of us will experience at one point in our PM careers. I don't have an answer for how to solve the problem, because it's the human factor. You have to roll with it, because after all, we're not working with robots. But maybe these tip could help you come up with a Plan B:

1. Make sure your team is not working locally, and that work is checked in often. Save all files to a server, or utilize a service like Dropbox.

2. Track tasks with team members separately. It can be a pain, but can also be very helpful. Simple am/pm check-ins will help you to know exactly what has been done, and even what the percent complete of a task might be. Think about using to do lists for frequent check-ins (this might be really helpful if you're using Basecamp).

3. Always have a pipeline of possible resources to use (alternate team members, freelancers, family pets, etc.). You never know when you'll need some backup, so keep those lines of communication open at all times.

4. Be sure that more than one person on your team has access (passwords!) to external systems. The inevitable lockout is the worst.

5. Notify clients and partners immediately when you hit a potential speed bump. It's best to stay transparent if there is a risk of delay. If anything, things will "feel" better knowing that you've covered your bases and can quickly adapt.

What it really comes down to is that you can never be completely comfortable. Assess risks and keep a backup plan in your back pocket. Don't be nervous. Be confident that when things go wrong, you'll be able to adapt easily.