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Managing in a crisis

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A programme manager must accept that despite well laid plans there is a 9/10 chance that the plan will not work perfectly and yet they must appear to manage professionally. This involves managing all the stakeholders involved – on major projects this accountability often extends to include the board of directors, parliament and the media. Get this wrong (especially with the media) and with the ever-present mobile phone, twitter etc, then programme manager potentially faces losing their project, career and reputation.

BCG matrix and definitions in relation to programmes:

Strategic programmes – business as usual

Compliance – must do i.e. manage all stakeholders and ensuing ambiguity

Serendipity – taking time to do undertake the unplanned/creative

Crisis events – To professionally cope with crisis one has to have the right mind-set to manage change in the short term – as agile as a pilot who has a well mapped our route/height yet has to adapt quickly due to unforeseen weather or circumstances – think Hudson River landing.

It would be interesting to hear any other suggestions for the matrix when you reach the end of the article.

Here are some examples of a few frameworks for programme managers to keep in mind when dealing with a crisis:
  • STOPAR rule:

                S=stop – instead of running around like a headless chicken

                                T=think – explore options

                                                O=orientate – listen to the people who think they are the “victims”

                                                                P=plan – what to do

                                                                                A=action – implement solution to address peoples’ concerns


  • 3Rs rule is to build trust from the people:

                R = regret – show that you understand how the “victims” may feel - empathise

                                R=reason – try to explain to people how /why this happened

                                                R=remedy – say what you intend to do about it

Remember in the present climate we are all connected – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc – whether it be the 8 or 80 year old person – news travels round the world in seconds and artificial intelligence searches are getting faster. The growth in social media and 24 hours news has seen crisis examples in all industries from aviation, leisure, oil and banking spread round the world. This has proved to be both a blessing and a curse.

  • BBC rule for press conference - sum up 3Rs in 90 words then:

                B= block any bad questions e.g “before I answer that I’d like to say…” etc

                                B=bridge to your positive message

                                                C=communicate your message!

Remember the following crisis management tips:
  • Frame your crisis in terms of 3 areas of strength – do not let media dictate the agenda – let team on the ground do the talking – fresh, positive and not jet-lagged!
  • Do not get aggressive in a crisis
  • Qs = qualities to display:

Leadership – right mindset – calm, centered

Instantaneous -  rapidly whilst understanding people around you, don’t kneejerk

Culture – effect on crisis – use the intuition from the best people – try not to default to “best legal advice” or “corperate speak”

Personal – try bring stakeholders on to your side

In order to understand the significance of programme management and its application within increasingly complex, diverse and challenging arenas, join us at the APM Programme Management SIG Conference: ‘Programmes Demystified’. Join some of the professions leading programme practitioners to help demystify programmes, share insights, ideas and techniques.




The Managing in a crisis webinar was presented on Tue 23 Jan 2018 by Stephen Carver


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