Project chaos/crises can be caused by several factors, from a complete breakdown of direction, a lack of performance on key activities, or even misguided leadership. Sometimes it’s outside factors that throw everything into disarray. This last cause may be relevant to our current work environments.
There are four key elements of rescuing a project in crisis, those project management steps include:
1. Define “What’s So”
2. Define the Project
3. Create a Plan
4. Define Risks and Mitigation
Defining “What’s So”
The most important first step in a chaotic situation is to understand and define “what’s so”. It is difficult to turn a project around if you don’t know how truly bad the situation is. Once that point of truth has been established, defining the goal, planning, and creating a risk mitigation strategy can occur with greater clarity.
We often find that there are strong personalities at work on a team. In some cases, we’ve had to replace the project manager, but because of their expertise, they are still on the team; that can create a tough political climate. Is the plan good? Is the project on time or within budget? These are all critical questions to ask, but to begin fixing things, you need to know what all needs to be fixed.
Define the Medical Device Project
When NASA sent people to the moon, the project was defined in 18 words: “Send a human to the moon and return them safely within ten years for $10 billion dollars or less.” There aren’t many larger or more heroic projects in the history of mankind. Certainly, that was one where everything had to be perfect. The project had clarity, and everyone knew exactly what the project was and aligned their work to it because it was so clear.
A timelier project definition for the moment might be “Effectively manage our business to break even or better over the next three months assuming multiple disruptions to supply and demand.”
We have found that keeping your project definitions to 25 words or less is required. Also, in that definition, declare what you are going to do, when you are going to have it accomplished, and what your budget is.
Creating a Plan around the Project
In creating a plan, you start from the “What’s So” and identify all the project management steps required to get to your Definition of the Project. There are many tools for this, from Microsoft Project to Smart Sheet, but we have seen many amazing projects completed with a mere spreadsheet. As you look at the plan, you should identify which resources you will need, when you will need them, and potential conflicts for those resources.
Define the Risks and Mitigation
Anticipating risks and identifying paths for mitigation are valuable as gold when a crisis hits. As with many companies right now, if they had anticipated a health and financial scare, they would have a plan to implement. Those who didn’t anticipate that convergence, are racing to create a plan and may find themselves behind in acquiring the resources they will need to weather the storm.
When we create our risk management plans, we create a table and identify what the risks are. Then we identify the potential impact of the risk, when you know if the risk is or is no longer possible, identify potential mitigations for the risk, and create a plan for if the risk occurs. The most effective way to do this is to bring in representatives from as many parts of the project as possible. We find it helpful to include representatives from the design or development teams, Quality, Regulatory, manufacturing, marketing, and finance teams. (MDRG has all of these resources if needed)
If you follow these 4 steps and do the work of creating this plan – especially the risk planning, the challenges don’t go away but the anxiety goes down. You have a plan to put into place.
Contact Waddell Group
MDRG includes 14 companies with varying specialties within the Medical Device industry. The project management company (Waddell Group) has been managing medical device projects for 25 years, often being brought into projects in chaos/crises. We put project management steps in place so you know the process is being handled correctly. Check out our work project page for more examples of management. For more information about MDRG, visit MDRG.org or Waddell Group and call 952.221.3333 or visit waddellgrp.com.