While most construction businesses have contingency plans in place for crisis situations, they may not be robust or accessible enough to deal with all potential scenarios. So, when a crisis such as a global pandemic hits, how should project managers respond?

Make use of available support

Where necessary, construction companies large and small should make use of the business loans, grants and time-to-pay arrangements, which have been introduced by the Government. While these can help ease some of the financial pressures caused by the crisis, challenges around managing staff and keeping sites operational, where it is possible to do so, remain. For example, it is important to ensure that all contractors adhere to the latest guidance provided by the Construction Leadership Council and Public Health England and prioritise the health and safety of all workers.


Streamline decision-making protocols

For many large projects and infrastructure programmes, the layers of businesses involved in delivery make it especially difficult to predict the impact of potential staff or materials shortages, and which areas of the build could be most affected.

To address this, it makes sense to streamline management protocols as far as possible, so business critical decisions can be taken as and when they are needed. Contractors and project managers should aim to stay agile and react to the situation at hand. For example, it may be possible to make programme changes, which might alter the sequence of works, but allow the site to remain operational.


Use reactive planning

While most projects and programmes have contingency plans in place, it may not be possible to rely on these entirely. The reality is that many contractors and project managers have had to switch to ‘reactive planning’ mode during the coronavirus crisis, which basically means they are reacting to live events.

Even when reacting to the situation at hand, some degree of forward planning is necessary. For example, contractors and project managers should consider how they might respond to specific staff or materials shortages, or what they might need to do if they are forced to close all sites. They should also consider how long it would take to re-open sites after a period of closure.

Armed with a clear understanding of all potential threats to project or business continuity, project managers and contractors will be better placed to take the right decisions at the right time.


Keep lines of communication open

The importance of communication should not be overlooked in a crisis situation. For contractors, issuing some form of all-employee communication is key to ensure employees are up to date with the latest guidance  and critical business updates occurring through the crisis. Remote platforms such as Skype and Microsoft Teams can also be used to host meetings with key stakeholders and delivery partners.  Implementing the right communications systems and technologies is critical to smooth operations.


Building a more resilient future

By adopting the right approach and making sure decision-making processes are flexible, the industry will be more resilient and better placed to navigate the crisis at hand.


Article originally published at Buildingtalk