Managing Project Communication During a Crisis

Be it a multinational organisation or a startup, no one is immune to a business crisis. Project managers, as well as the employees, are required to possess skills to tackle the crisis and achieve optimal performance, despite stressful environment and situational pressure. Sooner or later something may go wrong and often no one’s really in control of the situation. That’s why we must learn the art of managing project communication and defusing tension during the time of turmoil.

All organisations, from large to small, experience some sort of crisis at some point. When that happens, it is essential to have a competent and strong leadership that can contain the situation. Whether a crisis happens due to poor execution of a service, an angry customer, or some other uncontrollable factor the trick lies in thinking proactively rather than shifting the blame. The extent of damage control depends on how skillfully an organisation reacts to the situation. The following section highlights the skills and techniques that a project manager must have to motivate the staff.

stressThe Key to Crisis Management

When a crisis hits, a smart project manager knows that blaming, shouting and finding excuses are not going to help. Sloganeering and stating the obvious is equally useless.

There are certain skills that a manager must hone in on so they can lead from the front, take the organisation out of the disaster and come out as a winner.

In this post, I will focus on the internal management of the crisis and how to handle the crisis within the project team.

Communication Conundrum

Project managers who create a positive and seamless communication flow from the very beginning of the project face minimal problems in maintaining good communication during a crisis. When the business is suffering from a severe blow, it becomes imperative to maintain an open dialogue within the organisation and the team.

Under-communication has an adverse effect during a crisis as it promotes a negative and repressive working environment. Employees expect an increase in communication from the project manager that can protect their confidence and efficiencies in challenging times.

The Trust Factor

Trust acts as a cornerstone that a manager must build to manage operations during a crisis efficiently.

Building the trust is not an overnight process – it should start before a crisis hits the ground. It involves multiple fronts such as:

  • being fair and consistent
  • treating everyone with dignity and respect
  • living up to your promises

If a manager fails to build the trust and positive working environment, then organisational staff will find it challenging to maintain a positive state of mind and confidence during the turmoil.

Communication for Collaboration

At the time when nothing seems to be working out, many project managers choose the path of micromanaging. I believe that micromanaging can be too much for employees to handle (or tolerate), especially in a crisis. They need their space and freedom to work with full capacity. Micromanaging can crush their motivation and decrease their efficiency.

A smart manager always makes sure to have the best people around, those who can offer unique and creative ideas, even during high-pressure and time-sensitive commitments. Communicate in a way that can foster collaboration, rather than destruction.

Motivation is the New Panacea

Stress goes hand in hand with management crisis, which is why project managers mustn’t lose focus on employee motivation. Handing out a memo or a pat on the back aren’t going to make things any better.

However, following a few simple tips can help you maintain motivation and enhance productivity.

Tip #1 Do Not Transfer the Pressure

Being under tremendous pressure doesn’t justify transferring it to your employees by bullying them. Instead, try directing them and explaining your expectations. This approach will enable them to think with a clear mind and come up with effective solutions.

Crisis solutionTip #2 A Praise Always Pays Off

Surprisingly, project managers often forget the simplest solutions during a crisis. Praising does not always mean talking in person or a heartfelt pat on the back. One-liner mail or an encouraging text message with genuine appreciation can also be adequate to boost motivation.

Tip #3 Do Not Close the Doors

Even if crisis occupies your mind completely, shutting doors on your team is not a smart choice. Let them reach you because a crisis is a critical time for them to get support and to be pointed in the right direction. Communicate in a straightforward manner and maintain open communication.

Tip #4 Keep Planning

The biggest cause of stress in a team is the continuous change of scope or priorities. This causes uncertainty and lowers the overall team performance. During a crisis, you must take action, but keep in mind that making a quick decision and then always adjusting it is a (very common) mistake.

Keep planning as you did before the crisis. If you need to make corrections, try explaining them. Have regular meetings to take decisions. This will allow you to discuss the corrective actions with all the actors, and everyone will have the opportunity to analyse the situation profoundly.

It’s a Double-Sided Game

Both project managers and team members are equally responsible for handling the crisis at hand. Both sides must maintain the balance between urgency, performance, honesty, and mental strength. Working environment should be created so that everyone’s opinion is heard and a universal consensus reached.

In short, managing a crisis is not much different from managing a project. It is based on communication, teamwork, and planning. During any crisis, people tend to take matters into their own hands and act fast, reducing the communications levels and creating stress and conflicts.

This is why it is important to manage the situation: shield the team from the external tensions that the crisis will create and keep the focus on solving the crisis.

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