Picture your perfect project…
- The team is cruising along with very few issues or roadblocks.
- The client is regularly in touch through meetings and other communication, and happy with progress so far
- The budget, scope and schedule are all in check, things could not be going more smoothly, and then…
Flu season hits! One team member is out sick for several days, another team member who has two young children is forced to work from home for a week when her children’s school is closed for fears of spreading the H1N1 virus. The client has children in the same school, so is also suddenly not able to make regular meetings and is out of touch even more when one if his children catches the flu.
Your project is quickly getting pushed off track, what can you do? Better yet, how could you have been prepared for this? In the book “Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects“, one of the basic concepts that I learned is that a project manager has to think like a pessimist. Rather than pitch, plan and sell like a sales or marketing exec who is always focusing on the positives, the project manager needs to think negatively and make sure s/he is prepared.
So, what can you as a project manager do to do be prepared if and when the flu hits your team?
- Help enable team members to get vaccinated and get family members vaccinated (even if it means an afternoon off, better now than more time later)
- Try to keep the hours real, limit the late nights to the home stretch. An exhausted team member will get sick much more easily
- Make sure project communication and collaboration is as accessible and easy as possible, all team members should be able to access email and work files remotely. Better yet, host project communication on a web-based collaboration tool so that email communication can be minimized and collaboration can take place in one central area that can be accessed from anywhere by anyone, at any time.
- Keep your schedule realistic. If you plan on promising specific dates make sure you have a contingency plan to ensure you can meet them if your critical resource is unavailable and not able to pick up his/her share of the work. Better yet, keep promise dates in ranges (a window of time rather than a specific day & time).
The last two bullets are especially useful both with a project running without hitches and unexpected sickness, and also in the event that your team members start going missing from the office. With a realistic schedule and a team working on a robust web-based collaboration and task management system, you will have a strong defense against an unexpected virus, and be more prepared when that virus hits.
Happy Flu Season!