What is the Role of Prioritization in Crisis Management?
No one has immune to a crisis. This is especially truthful these days, right? Recent examples of global floods, wildfires in Australia and coronavirus spread have shown that a crisis may come from anywhere and it does not have to obligatory come from economical challenges.
The crisis can seriously damage small and medium-sized businesses, as well as large enterprises. It doesn’t matter whether you are involved in e-commerce of software development, whether you own a small flower shop or deal with construction project management – the crisis can affect any project.
However, even a young project manager without experience must not be inactive and stressful in any situation. Today’s education of a project manager includes risk management and allows young talents to seek and find effective ways to deal with different types of crises. One of the powerful tools to deal with complex challenges in project management is prioritization.
In this post, you will find three fundamental blocks:
- Actuality. What is a crisis and how can it influence project management?
- Theory. What is the role of prioritization in project management in a crisis period?
- Practice. What are some reliable tools and techniques to help with prioritization in a crisis period?
So, let’s dive in!
1. Actuality: All About Crisis in Project Management
Nothing scares project managers so much than being informed that deadlines have been missed, their project is over budget, and the half of the team is sick with the flu. As a project manager, you can suddenly face a crisis in all shapes and sizes, whether financial, technological, or public relations.
However, project managers should not freak out, pulling out their hair and lashing out at team players. Otherwise, they will be counterproductive to solving the situation at hand.
Did you know that the best projects are always the ones that are prone to issues and challenges? And if you don’t know how to handle the project management crisis, it can result in public distrust, the loss of your company, and other problems in future projects.
There are some basic steps to take during a crisis to prevent or mitigate the damage a crisis may cause to your project. Here we briefly list them, highlighting the most important point that you’ll find at the end of the list.
How to Gracefully Handle a Project Management Crisis?
Identify the cause correctly
Notice the early signs. Project managers are those people in companies who should be always vigilant enough to smell any minor warning gesturing towards a serious crisis going to happen. The first step they should do is to locate the department where the root problem surfaced and define the degree to which each team member was responsible. Perhaps, a brainstorming session will be useful here.
One of the crucial responsibilities for PM is to detect dangerous signs and take immediate preventive actions. Learn to detect any warning signals (for example, of the budget creep) and try to quickly plan preventive actions to eliminate the crisis situation.
Have a detailed contingency plan
It’s better to have at least one person per each department to be accountable for vindicating the crisis effects in their sectors. Contingency planning or a plan B will help to save your money and project reputation. It is about anything that may occur outside the range of typical operations that may negatively affect a company’s ability to operate. The contingency plan should involve clear action steps to be taken if an identified risk occurs.
What can be better than communication to coordinate the team and remain involved? Keep everyone refreshed with changes as they happen using open correspondence. In any crisis situation, project managers should implement a positive viewpoint consistently to help oversee push with no panic and negative.
Keep a cool head and be optimistic
Stay optimistic and do not let your courage get down at a crisis time. Panic will not lead to success and it will only exacerbate an already tumultuous time. Demonstrate to others how they can do better. Be concerned, centered, and quiet.
Personality, specific qualities of a person and soft skills also work as a weapon to fight strategically in these circumstances. Project managers need to work tirelessly to ensure their team members stay positive and enthusiastic. Try to always be focused on a solution no matter what challenge you are going through.
Remember that prevention is better than cure
This is actually evergreen guidance worth following in all aspects of life. Often you are able to kill the problem before it grows bigger. There are always circumstances that can’t be predicted but your aim anyway is to guarantee a similar issue does not occur once more.
Finally, learn to set priorities
A crisis will not give you a chance two think twice. You will have to learn how to make decisions here and now. However, all of us know how it can be difficult to define the most urgent tasks or the most important steps need to be done within the project roadmap. Therefore, prioritization begins to be one of the most powerful skills any PM must have.
2. Theory: Why Prioritization is the Key to Success
In a general meaning, prioritization is a set of activities aimed at the correct distribution of work tasks according to their immediate relevance. Typically, the urgent tasks should be executed first, while the other tasks are expected to be done after the execution of the first ones. Prioritization often most occurs in such processes as project and release planning and even daily to-do lists of particular specialists. In each case, prioritization goes in its own way, creating new project approaches to work.
Among the other areas of the crisis management process, being able to prioritize risks looks the most essential. During the crisis, project managers will definitely ask themselves the question “How to prioritize when everything is a priority?” One of the essential steps any PM may undertake is prioritizing tasks, milestones, and risks during project initiation meetings. It is good to consider past experience, including positive and negative outcomes.
Prioritization starts with managing a product strategy. If there is no transparent strategy and a clear project timeline, then it’s not the best time to start prioritizing. You may read more about product strategy and prioritization in the Ultimate Guide to product strategy planning, and now it is time to follow the next block of our article that contains the practical ways for successful prioritization.
3. Practice: Powerful Tools for Effective Prioritization in a Crisis Period
A prioritization matrix is a smart tool for tasks sorting that is visualized in the form of a table with some criteria of task value and exigence. It can be really useful in a crisis period.
All the criteria in the matrix make up several groups of tasks to do, that receive an objective picture of which group of tasks should be executed primarily, which one should be finished in the second place and which tasks need not be done at all.
Eisenhower’s prioritization matrix
Eisenhower matrix is a classic basis in the prioritization matrices system. It got its name from the 34th American president who knew how to prioritize things well.
The matrix consists of four squares:
- The first square contains the most important and urgent tasks that should be finished as soon as possible.
- The second square includes very important but not so urgent tasks.
- The third square represents a set of urgent but not very important tasks and activities.
- The fourth square contains the tasks of the lowest priority both for their urgency and importance.
Project managers appreciate and value this prioritization matrix for its simplicity and flexibility. It is widely used in product development, project planning, business strategy development, and crisis management as well.
If you want to explore more prioritization matrices, read the article about the Different Types of Powerful Prioritization Matrices That Help to Score Your Product
Outstanding Prioritization Techniques Worth Your Attention
Here we will not focus on them. We are going to briefly consider some new and more fundamental techniques that are now gaining more and more recognition in the world of project management. These techniques are the ICE score model and the RICE scoring method.
ICE scoring is a simple way to prioritize your project activities and get things done. All you need is calculate the score per idea, according to the formula:
- Impact is how much your idea will positively affect the key metric you’re trying to improve.
- Confidence is how you are sure about all estimates – about impact and effort.
- Ease reflects the easiness of implementation. It is an estimation of how much effort and resources are required to implement this idea.
These values are rated on a relative scale of 1–10 so not to over-weigh any of them. You can choose what 1–10 means, as long the rating stays consistent.
The main idea of this prioritization technique is preventing from being bogged down in trying to fine-tune the score too much.
Explore the ICE scoring method’s details here.
The RICE model also includes a formula:
It contains 4 components: Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort. To get a RICE score you need to combine these factors.
- Reach rates how many people each task will effect within a certain period of time and how many of them will notice the changes.
- Impact demonstrates how the task will contribute to the project.
- Confidence is about how you are sure about all estimation – both about impact and effort.
- Effort is estimated as a number of “person-months”, weeks or hours, depending on needs. It is the work that one team member can do in a specific month.
The RICE scoring model allows ranking the tasks these values and use the final score you’ve come up with to decide what should be implemented at first.
Explore the ICE scoring method’s details here.
To sum it up
Any crisis has an end. The result of any unscheduled and emergency situation depends on the efforts of project managers and their teams. If they know how to react quickly and use the ability to prioritize as efficiently as possible, then they may not be afraid of danger and sad consequences. Remember that prioritization is your trump card and the key to success for any project.