Top Ten things to build into your Project Contingency Plan

A contingency plan is a valuable part of your risk management. Whilst it won’t stop risks happening, nor even make them more likely, it will give you a clear set of steps to follow if it does happen. This will allow you to rapidly restore control and limit the potential for consequential threats. But what tactics can you put into a contingency plan? There are very many, but here, we sample ten of the best.

1. Create a schedule contingency, or “float”

Build extra time into your programme to allow you to absorb the delays that a realised risk can generate.

2. Identify options for extended working hours

If things go wrong, it will need to be all hands to the pump. So look at where you can generate a little extra work time if needed. Never use up this potential extra time by scheduling it into your baseline plan.

3. Look for non-dependent later activities that could be re-scheduled

If you need to turn your attention to the issue that’s arisen, know in advance what planned activities you can put off until later, without affecting your critical path and hence your completion date.

4. Identify non-critical activities that could be dropped

You may be able to do better than delay some activities… Are there any discretionary activities that can be cancelled entirely without compromising core functionality or essential quality standards?

5. Research off-the-shelf solutions that could be bought in

If you lose time, then you may want to save it again by buying ready-to-use components. If you find yourself over-budget, you may be able to buy less expensive generic components that have lower but acceptable levels of functionality.

6. Create budget contingency

Always squirrel away a small amount of budget as a contingency against troubles. Whenever you make a saving, keep it in reserve.

7. Identify non-critical activities, or deliverables that you could de-scope; reducing functionality or quality criteria

This will be an uncomfortable compromise, but if you know from the outset where stakeholders’ priorities lay, and the relative influence of different stakeholders, you can compile a hierarchy of specifications according to their priority, and hence know which ones you could compromise, if you have to.

8. Build test and remediation time into your plans

Things will go wrong, so it is far better to find them in planned test time and to fix them in scheduled remediation time. And if you have fewer failures than you anticipated, you will have the up-side risk of finding ways to use the extra time profitably.

9. Secure expert evaluators

Some projects are susceptible to deep expertise or experience and bringing this in at well-chosen points in your project can be an investment worth making. Know who you could call upon quickly if things go wrong and you can cut your remediation time and cost significantly.

10. Put in place effective change control procedures

Change upon change is chaos, so a project with no control over changes in scope, quality or specification detail is almost certain to encounter problems. And, in addition, without change control, your project governance is severely compromised.


Risk Happens! by Mike ClaytonLearn more about how to build a project contingency plan, in Dr Mike Clayton’s new book, “Risk Happens! Managing Risk and Avoiding Failure in Business Projects

See www.riskhappens.co.uk for details.

Buy it in paperback from Amazon here,
or in Kindle format, here.

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