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Project Manager : Project Manager Feb March 2012
28 Project Manager THINKSTOCK PROBLEM SOLVERS QYou are the project lead in a location that has experienced a natural disaster. Immediately after the event, your team is on an emotional high and there is unprecedented team cohesion and efficiency. A couple of weeks pass and there is a marked change in mood as people begin counting the cost, such as increased workloads and reduced staffing. How can project managers continue the high, bring out the best in their staff and effectively lead resilient teams? Crisis management WE PUT A DIFFICULT PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROBLEM TO A DISASTER MANAGEMENT EXPERT A. AFTER A MAJOR DISASTER or large-scale humanitarian emergency, the immediate post-impact phase is characterised by the word ‘adrenalin’. Victims use it, if not in serious shock. Aid workers need it, as lives may well be at stake if the response is not systematic, coordinated and virtually round-the-clock in the sense of each relief worker being replaced by another in elongated shifts. ALAN MCLEAN, AID AGENCY RedR AUSTRALIA Stresses arise, inevitably, such as when supplies of relief goods (clean water, shelter, food items, blankets, clothing) are provided to some areas, but other districts prove difficult to reach. No disaster ever follows the handbook, despite coordination improvements and enhanced supply chains. When stresses press members of the team, managers of the relief activity would do well to remind the team (gently, subtly or directly) to keep the focus on people. People who have lost family, homes, livelihoods and possessions all at once are among the most desperate on the planet. The victims (and please beware of language gymnastics masquerading as political correctness – they are victims) deserve at very least, the full attention of aid workers committed to the task. Sure, the program may be short-staffed, but how does that irritation compare with the situation for thousands of people at risk of cholera or typhoid if the necessary medicaments do not reach the areas of need? Or the tents to provide shelter to women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities are delayed in their distribution? Project managers should try to ensure that aid workers on the front line know that reserve support is being called up; that others are coming to take over. Managers should also seek to have aid workers get adequate food, clean water and some rest in clean sheets if possible. Remember that workers can only be of maximum effectiveness to the people in desperate need if those workers are operating at full capacity and supporting each other. In these environments, teamwork can potentially have life-or- death outcomes. One hears discussion about unease when workers have access to goods unavailable to the victims of the tragedy. A more moderated view suggests that this imbalance may be essential for the relief program to maximise its objectives – saving lives and mitigating suffering. Take home message: put the needs of victims first! ••• VICTIMS DESERVE ... THE FULL ATTENTION OF AID WORKERS COMMITTED TO THE TASK
Project Manager Dec Jan 2012
Project Manager April May 2012