The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world
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Contingency Plan – Focusing on Business Value

via Flickr by Mark Herpel

Last time, I talked about status reporting, which is commonly required but whose power as a multitool is often overlooked. Today I am going to talk about a tool that is frequently overlooked altogether – the contingency management plan.

Projects are initiated for a reason – in a business setting, to create something of business value. Unfortunately, project managers are often brought in after project initiation and are not fully exposed to the business case and the value of the ultimate deliverable that their project was chartered to create.

However, as you create the plan, or drive the plan you are handed, you can’t forget that the project deliverables are tied to value. If there are roadblocks to deliverables of value, you need to find a way around those roadblocks that preseves the value. Or, if the value of those particular deliverables declines, you owe it to your project sponsors, and your project team, to look for other deliverables. Either way, you and your team need to maintain focus on the value that the project was designed to create.

Your risk management plan with contingency and business impacts with value exposed – often, with actual dollars associated with alternative outcomes and plans – is another tool that is often underutilized or neglected entirely. It is not unusual for project risks to be listed during the early stages of a project, perhaps for the sake of “compliance,” but then for that risk log to be set aside for the duration. This is a shame, for risk contingency planning is another tool that is relatively simple to use, even for new project managers, but in experienced hands can function as a powerful leadership tool as well.

via Flickr by hunnnterrr

In addition to the actual identification and planning around the risks, the risk contingency plan with business values exposed can be used as a leadership tool to focus the team and to leverage the team’s focused expertise to improve the quality of the project outcome.

  • Communicating and focusing the team on value. As noted earlier, the project team is often brought in after the project is chartered and may not have been exposed to the business case. Even if they have, it is very easy for them to become wrapped up in procedures, methodology and superficial deliverables rather than the value those deliverables are supposed to carry.

 

Enabling the team to find true value-preserving contingency plans. When the team is able to focus on value rather than procedures and methodology for bureaucracy sake alone, they have more freedom to help you develop contingency plans for project risks that preserve value.

PMBOK tells you to incorporate a risk management plan in your project, but doesn’t tell you that communicating the risk and contingency plan containing the business impacts with the team can be a powerful tool in your toolkit for leading the team by influencing. If you can use your risk contingency plan in this way, you emerge as a leader who leverages the power of your team to deliver value, not just a manager who brings in the deliverables on paper.

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About the Author

Dr. Constance Stillinger, PMP, Ph.D., is the Program Manager for the 2013 Symposium of the PMI - Silicon Valley Chapter and has previously served in various volunteer roles, including the Board. She has led complex multi-million dollar programs encompassing multifunctional global teams with over 15 years of experience with technology projects, process transitions, contract management, outsourcing and PMO implementations. She has an A.B. in mathematics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University. She is currently seeking new project management opportunities in the Silicon Valley.
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