6 Steps to Recovery

Rebuilding after any disaster takes clear communication and organization, and that’s where project management can help.


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The past decade has had its fill of catastrophic news. The terrorist attacks on 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and even the economic collapse have all dominated headlines. In the beginning, the news focused on what happened and then speculation or proof about how or why it happened. The last leg of the news story follows the recovery from the disaster.

It is here where much of the attention goes to the recovery efforts in smaller pieces. It is empowering and moving to see a person, a country or an organization bounce back after disaster strikes.

The recovery process is really where a team comes together and works towards the same goal.

Thinking back to the last ten years of newsmakers, many argue these horrific events would not have happened if people had paid attention and made preventive steps.
Equally important is to have a recovery plan for the “what ifs” of the world. Rebuilding after any disaster takes clear communication and organization, and that’s where project management can help.

1. Get it in writing. First and most important is project agreement. This is the living and breathing document that ensures things travel safe and end well. It is a master plan of action that includes all the details from goals and objectives to roles and responsibilities, budget and timelines. It’s the glue to keeping tight communication as minute-by-minute changes take place.

2. There is no “I” in team. Team dynamics are a challenge even in great conditions. Give people a clear goal they can be committed to, give them opportunities to interact and the opportunity to talk openly about how they’re feeling and what they are experiencing. Often, having our emotions validated releases stress.

3. Lessons learned. A record of collective experiences can prevent history from repeating itself. A “lessons learned” archive is a must-have for any organization to ensure that only the right history is repeated.

Keep notes about everything that is happening. This will ultimately benefit your team, your industry and others who may benefit from what you have learned first-hand. For every “lesson learned” there is a future project with less stress, less confusion and more direction. That alone should inspire you to take a moment to track issues and challenges that have become speed bumps along the way.

Passing this knowledge along to new employees or receiving this on your own first day is a great way to get acclimated quickly, which helps the team as a whole.

4. One small step at a time. Communicate every success—no matter the size. Recognize people’s efforts and celebrate loudly—even if it’s simply a loud, rowdy cheer that screams, “We’re all in this together and we’re making progress.”
Accentuating the positive increases productivity and energy needed to complete the recovery effort.

5. Give hope. Be a leader who can resolve conflict, come up with solutions and give people a way to participate in the solution. Active leadership leads to increased hope and faith within individuals. Give people a safe environment where they can communicate and share their fears and concerns.

6. Grace under pressure. When stress levels are high and doomsday seems to be all around, being graceful under pressure is quite a feat in itself. Be proactive, not reactive, by revisiting your initial project agreement.

Next, gather the troops for a pep talk, and then dole out new marching orders. You’ll find that providing clarity will keep the peace and inspire

The ability to bounce back takes tenacity and determination. Avoiding disasters is one thing, but recovering quickly and then continuing on is a talent. Each one of us is capable of this talent, as long as we keep project management in our bag of tricks.

Michelle LaBrosse is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the “Cheetah Success Series” and a dynamic keynote speaker and industry thought leader whose mission is to bring project management to the masses. She was previously recognized by the Project Management Institute as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world. E-mail her at marketing@cheetahlearning.com.