Series: Why Projects Fail – Acts of God

I suspect the phrase Acts of God is most amusing to the One with whom it attempts to label which activities are especially His.  Insurance companies fall on this when referring to severe weather causing catastrophes, an uncontrollable force where the outcome is unknown.  While I think we have a Bible that helps us know, at least partially, the actual, recorded Acts of God, I do understand a need for a bucket, if you will, where we can place unforeseen situations that affect our efforts.

In 2011, on one such project, this unforeseen situation was a tsunami that hit the island nation of Japan.  It was caused by a 9.0 earthquake in the Pacific Ocean with at 7.1 aftershock nearly a month later and caused the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

I was project manager for an automobile manufacture at the time and as you may know, many parts are manufactured in Japan as well as the paint for the cars and trucks sold in the US.  Suddenly, any project that didn’t have a contract in place was immediately cancelled.  All projects in the idea and planning stage were put on hold.

I had not yet had such an experience of a sweeping action affecting current and future work.  I understood however, and proceeded to archive the work I had completed so far and debrief management for project cancellation.  It goes to show you that at the end of the day, anything can affect your project, even an event on the other side of the world.  You need to be ready to “drop the mic” and do your best to bring your activities to a close and properly document your efforts in case the project is resurrected at a later date.

The project was not picked up again as the customer, who did not have a funding issue, decided to use another vendor.  That was fine as they needed to do what was best for them and the vendor who picked up where I left off ended up doing an excellent job.  They worked very well with the customer with whom I had other existing projects I was managing for them.

Should an “Act of God” hit your project, don’t dwell on the lack of control. Scale down to complete it if you can, do your Lessons Learned, and look for new opportunities now that your calendar has been suddenly cleared.