A Practical Guide to Navigating a Work Project Through Crisis

Editorial Team

A Practical Guide to Navigating a Work Project Through Crisis

Project managers are quickly becoming critical positions in almost every field and industry. If you want your company to thrive—you hire a project manager. Ideally, they’d have the qualifications, skill set and decision-making abilities to navigate any work project through a time of crisis. Whether that’s an economic downturn, global pandemic or sudden shift in trends.

It’s a situation that nobody ever wants to be in, but the longer you’re working—the more likely it’ll be that you’ll encounter a work project crisis. In today’s fast-paced world and with the business landscape constantly evolving and changing, it’s important to be prepared and know what to do if you’re ever facing an obstacle in a work project.

Whether you’re a project manager looking for tips to navigate a crisis effectively, or you are studying for a Graduate Certificate in Project Management, this guide will help you through any challenging work project situation.

How to recognise a work project crisis

If you want to be able to navigate through a work project crisis, you first need to be able to recognise one. There are several key indicators that a project might be facing challenges or changes in staff behaviour that can be a giveaway.

  • Low morale—If you notice signs that your team or coworkers have low morale or are tired or stressed, it could be a strong sign that something is wrong with the project or work they’re assigned.

  • Missing deadlines—If your team or organisation is repeatedly missing deadlines on tasks for a project, it’s a good sign that the project manager should re-evaluate the project and source out what’s causing the delays.

  • Changes to communication style—Have you noticed that reports or email communication from your team or other coworkers have dropped? Whilst this doesn’t always mean a work project crisis, a change in communication style could be an indicator that someone is unsatisfied or needs assistance.

These are just a few factors that can lead to a work project crisis, or be telltale signs for one. If you’re working as a project manager, understanding and being able to recognise any potential problems a project might face is half the challenge.

Communication is key

During times of crisis, it’s so easy to forget about the importance of communication. Maintaining clear and effective communication is crucial for any project, especially if it’s going through hardship.

A well-defined communication plan is pivotal for work projects, whether it’s facing a crisis situation or not. It’s also important that the project manager is always regularly updating stakeholders, team members, management and other relevant parties.

Strong communication between all parties involved in a project ensures that there are no miscommunications and any expectations are made clear. It’s also important for addressing any problems or obstacles promptly, allowing you to provide the right guidance and keep the project on track.

Identifying the cause

Along with being able to recognise the signs that your workplace environment or work project might be facing difficulties—the skill to identify the cause is just as essential. Whether it’s through discussing with your team, going back through project plans or reviewing progress, finding out the root cause will help you take back control of the project.

Leadership and staying cool

If you’re looking for tips to navigate your team through a work project crisis, staying cool and level-headed is a must. Sit back and try to imagine steering your project to success—it’s like trying to drive a car or captain a ship—it’d be much harder if you and everyone else were panicking.

If you’re the project manager, you are the leader and role model for your team. Your team and other involved parties will be looking to you for guidance during a crisis, so it’s important to present yourself in a calm and confident manner. If you can manage to stay calm, there’s a higher chance that your team will, too.

Contingency plans and adapting

A skilled and well-equipped project manager should always have a contingency plan ready for potential crisis situations. Whilst it’s impossible to account for every possible outcome, a contingency plan and the willingness to adapt to any new developments or challenges that arise during a work project is an indispensable skill.

Stay honest with relevant parties

The only thing worse than a work project crisis is when the project manager or leadership is trying to sugarcoat the situation. That falls under poor communication, it’s misleading, and only negatively impacts the project and team morale.

If you’re looking for tips to get your work project back on track, being honest with your team, stakeholders, and any other relevant parties is important. It’s challenging being honest, telling them the good as well as the bad—but it’ll help build stronger connections and business relationships. It also opens the floor to honest discussion about the project and can be used as a good launching point for addressing the crisis, where to improve and fix any issue(s).

Prevention is always better than the cure

Whilst it’s critical to have the skill set and ability to effectively manage a work project and team through a crisis—remember, taking steps to prevent it from happening in the first place is always better than damage control. It’ll save you and your team time, resources, and most importantly, stress.