Managing the recovery process could seem overwhelming. This section of the website addresses techniques and tools that can be used to make the recovery process manageable. Many of the suggestions are based on the Project Economy as described by the Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org). The Project Economy describes major initiatives as an opportunity for project management, meaning that a recovery process is achievable when broken down into projects designed to accomplish a common goal.
Step 11 of the Fiscal First Aid framework addresses managing the recovery process. It encourages thinking of recovery as a portfolio of projects. The main elements of this approach are:
- Project Management Plan
- Project Portfolio Management
- Project Communications
- Project Management Techniques
Financial recovery requires leadership to make the necessary changes in organizational performance to pull out of decline. Good management is needed to keep the recovery process on track.
Assigning a recovery manager to manage the portfolio of recovery projects will help align the recovery tasks and activities with the overarching goals of the recovery. It also ensures that resources are balanced across the work effort.
The recovery manager will need help. Strongly consider using temporary, cross-functional work teams to carry out the process. In addition to supporting the core recovery team, this will help the organization become proficient at teamwork. This also helps employees feel they are part of the solution, thereby reducing their anxiety about the recovery.
Cross-functional teams will be more likely to produce comprehensive and well-rounded solutions than teams with less diverse membership. These teams consist of stakeholders who represent an entire business process. For example, a cross-functional team for purchasing includes the purchasing agent, the buyer, a requisitioner and, in some cases, the supplier. Multiple teams can be established to address different parts of the recovery plan. Team members can also be shared between teams.
Each team should have a clear definition of their goal. This is the most important ingredient for a successful team. Find more information on how teams are mobilized in Step 2: Mobilization.
Project Management Plan
Use a project plan to manage activities within your recovery plan. This plan is often mistaken as only a list of tasks by start and completion times. A good project management plan is a collection of sub-plans that address scope, execution, and stakeholder management. Below are the components we believe are most critical for managing financial recovery projects.
Scope Plan — The scope plan defines the overarching purpose of projects. When projects try to accomplish too much, they are at risk of failure. Step 1 (Recognition) of the Fiscal First Aid process will help you define your scope. You can use some of the project management tools described in Project Management Techniques, like Use Cases.
Requirements Plan — More specific issues that you will need to address as part of recovery are suggested at every step of the 12-step recovery process. For a project to be successful, you need to articulate why the issues that it will address are important, how the project will address them, and what steps will be taken. To help refine the requirements for projects, consider using User Stories as described in Project Management Techniques.
Stakeholder Engagement Plan — Develop a “stakeholder register” for each project within your recovery plan. The register identifies each stakeholder, communication requirements, planned activities (if any), and general risks associated with the stakeholder.
Resource Plan — A resource plan includes staff and assets (physical and nonphysical). Assume that resources will not always be available, particularly for critical tasks. Develop a backup plan for these important resources. Consider how to reallocate resources from noncritical tasks to critical tasks as part of your plan. A RACI chart can help here (see Project Management Techniques).
Communications Plan — Establish a clear chain of command for making planning and project decisions. Develop clear communication channels between those implementing the plan and leadership. Identify stakeholders, media, messages, and frequency as part of the plan. Follow the recommendations under Project Communications to communicate with staff members responsible for recovery tasks.
Risk Management Plan — A risk plan for each project includes a list of risks by scenario identified in the scope plan. Likelihood of the risk occurring can be assigned through experience or consultation with other stakeholders. Costs and other factors can determine the impact of the risk. This will allow planners to prioritize mitigation plans.
Project Portfolio Management
Consider using a project portfolio to manage all of the projects associated with Fiscal First Aid. A portfolio is used to align projects to strategic initiatives. This approach helps ensure that every project is relevant to the recovery plan and that every element of the plan is being moved forward. A portfolio approach helps ensure that portfolio management practices are applied across all projects. Here are some important things that should be monitored:
- Goal achievement. Have the projects achieved their goals or are they on track to achieve them?
- Risk. What is the likelihood that a project will fail? What are the consequences if it does? What can be done to reduce the likelihood and consequences of failure?
- Resources. What personnel and financial resources do we need to direct to our projects to achieve our goals and reduce risk?
- Impact on financial distress. Is our portfolio of projects getting us the results we need to make sufficient progress on our recovery plan?
Good communication is essential to managing the fiscal crisis:
- Establish a clear chain of command for managing tasks and activities. Confusion about who is in charge can add angst to the organization.
- Control rumors and misinformation. Staff and team members need to focus on solutions. Rumors and misinformation take attention away from the tasks at hand.
- Be as transparent as possible. Transparency contributes to trust. If information cannot be passed along, explain to staff and team members that not all information will be able to be communicated uncontrolled. Stakeholders will appreciate the honesty up front.
- Remote workers. It may be necessary to operate remote teams in some cases. Regular check-ins with remote teams are highly recommended. It thwarts the feeling of abandonment and shows that leaders support their efforts. If possible, use videoconferencing to complete the check-in calls. It maintains the social connection, which is important to team dynamics.
Project Management Techniques
Professional project managers are highly trained and skilled individuals. It is not practical to learn a comprehensive project management discipline in times of crisis, but some project management discipline components can be quickly learned and applied. The following are some examples of these tools and techniques:
User Stories — User stories identify requirements when the problem is not clear. The technique helps clarify the goals of a project by answering “who is served,” “what do they need,” and “why do they need it.” An example of a user story is, “Our citizens [Who] want to pay their utilities online [What] since it is often not possible to make payments at the utility office during normal business hours due to social distancing or quarantine requirements [Why].” Research has shown that stories are powerful learning tools. They can help the project team understand what needs to be done and why.
Use Cases — Use cases illustrate how users interact with systems. “Systems” do not need to always represent technology. A system, for example, can represent a process, such as a cashier’s window. Users are represented as “actors” that transact with the “system.” Use cases are beneficial in crisis management. They help define stakeholders and transaction logic. A use case can be defined to describe, for example, all of the physical interactions required to handle cash at a cashier’s window. This could be useful to develop alternatives to physical cash handling or to make the cash handling process more efficient.
RACI Charts — RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consult, and Inform. A RACI chart is a communications tool used to clarify roles and ownership across tasks. A person or stakeholder who is “responsible” is the one who completes the task. Being “accountable” for a task means that the stakeholder is the owner of and the decision-maker for the task. Some tasks require additional stakeholders to be “consulted,” which means their input is important to complete the tasks. Finally, stakeholders are “informed” about the progress of task completion. Tasks are typically listed vertically and stakeholders horizontally in a RACI chart. Stakeholders are identified by their RACI task assignments within the matrix. Note: Not all stakeholders are assigned a RACI definition in all tasks, and some stakeholders can be assigned multiple RACI definitions. Find examples of RACI charts at racichart.org.
Kanban Boards — A Kanban board can be used to track the status of activities. Tasks are arranged in pillars that typically represent tasks waiting to be started, work in progress, and tasks completed. Each task is assigned an owner or leader. The benefit of a Kanban board is a quick assessment of backlog and team capacity. The central insight of a Kanban board is to show the amount of work in progress. If too much work is in progress at the same time, the project is at risk of losing focus. Limiting the amount of work in progress at one time is usually the fastest way to complete the project. Find information about the Kanban method at agilealliance.org.
Scrum Meetings — A Scrum meeting is a team gathering to assess the status of tasks. Tasks are organized into “sprints.” Sprints are small windows of time during which precisely defined tasks will be completed. Activity is checked daily. Team members identify what they achieved, what they plan to work on, and what, if any, impediments lie ahead. Scrum meetings are brief so that the leader can gain a quick status of progress. They are easy to use and can be deployed quickly. Find more information about Scrum at www.scrum.org.
Effective Meeting Management — Meetings are often considered the top waste of time in office settings. Meetings can’t be eliminated but can be managed better. Below are key points to better manage meetings. You can read this GFOA magazine article for more details. Create a meeting agenda that identifies the goals of the meeting.
- Assign a meeting leader;
- Assign someone to record decisions reached at the meeting;
- Assign a coordinator to handle logistics (even if the logistics include online tools);
- Make sure that participants who have specific tasks to perform know their roles and the time limit;
- Structure the agenda so participants with an important but limited role can attend for only the items relevant to them;
- Send out a succinct meeting agenda and support materials at least 24 hours in advance (if possible);
- Maximize time spent doing real work to achieve the meeting’s goals;
- Have a start and stop time for each agenda item; and
- Schedule the meeting at the beginning or end of the day, lunch, or a natural break point in individual work time.
GFOA’s Financial Foundations for Thriving Communities introduces GFOA’s new Financial Foundations Framework that shows how to improve your financial position and create a strong foundation for a thriving community over the long term. Organized into five pillars, each pillar includes different leadership strategies and/or institutional design principles.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a professional organization focused on project management best practices. PMI offers some free resources for organizations. PMI also runs local chapters globally. Most chapters have an outreach program that can be contacted for assistance.
- Avalos, Francisco, 9 Tips for Leading Through Crises — Projectmanagement.com (April 8, 2020) — https://www.projectmanagement.com/articles/622248/9-Tips-for-Leading-Through-Crises-
- Jordan, Andy, Maintaining Teamwork Remotely — Projectmanagement.com (April 8, 2020) — https://www.projectmanagement.com/articles/622252/Maintaining-Teamwork-Remotely
- Kavanagh, Shayne, 10 Steps to Running a Worthwhile Meeting — Government Finance Review (April 2020) — https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/63208712/gfr-april-2020/37
- Introducing the Crisis PMO — Projectmanagement.com (April 1, 2020) — https://www.projectmanagement.com/blog-post/63263/Introducing-the-Crisis-PMO
- PMI Chicagoland — www.pmichicagoland.org
- Project Management Institute — www.pmi.org