Project managers create contingency plans to cover more grounds during the planning stage. A contingency plan is a substitute for the initial roadmap. So, it’s about proper risk management. In other words, the more a manager can do to ensure project success, the better.

Once the team starts working, even an identified risk event can get them off track. At those moments, a contingency plan can mitigate much of the turmoil. That way, you’ll never be walking into a project without a backup plan regarding the common challenges.

Before committing, the project manager inspects the optimal ways to put out such fires. Also, they honor the internal and external stakeholders’ wishes by being prepared. Hence, some planning software types highlight the importance of a good contingency plan by default.

Proper Risk Management

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Various pitfalls may hinder the workflow at critical points. They can be of a financial, legal, or technological nature. Sometimes, they can even strike in coordination. To keep the project afloat, contingency planning in project management is a must.

To better monitor such events, a brand will need to use some of its reserves. For example, they’ll need to cover the damages and resume work quickly. Thus, a mitigation strategy is seldom cheap. However, it prevents further losses from occurring.

The risk management plan covers such situations in detail. It contains advanced risk assessment and prepares the team for negative events. This involves spotting such threats and knowing how to avoid them. So, it covers numerous “what if?” scenarios.

Key Aspects and Focal Points

Assessing Risk Probability

No matter how hefty the contingency plan gets, new risks may still surprise you. Thus, risk identification is not an exact science. Trying to funnel all possible outcomes is not a feasible goal. However, rating the probability of a risky scenario is a good idea. For example, use a simple 1-5 scale to tag each of the potential risks. Such contingency planning in project management is also easy to implement.

The Specific Event That Triggers the Actual Issue

The mitigation plan should underline the usual triggers that lead to an issue. Then, such events become identified risks. As such, dealing with them won’t resemble disaster recovery.

Establish an Action Plan

Project managers face many hardships after missing a deadline. If they don’t handle the time loss properly, it can result in a domino effect. Therefore, having a response strategy is pivotal once an identified risk occurs.

Utilize the Communication Channels

Knowing your strengths will help you to enforce the contingency plan better. Once a negative event takes place, spend no time identifying it and passing that info along. Next, the people with risk mitigation roles should take over before long.

What the Planning Phase Entails

Shortlist the risk triggers

Knowing the usual pain points is half the battle in terms of contingency. However, you’ll need experience and skills to orient during the planning stage properly. For starters, input all possible scenarios into a basic outline.

Next, inspect each entry and compare it with the others. This should give you an idea of its probability factor. Lastly, remove the ones least likely to occur and focus on the more pressing dangers. This is an intuitive way to approach contingency planning in project management.

Move one step at a time

There are five basic steps to follow when crafting a contingency plan. Start by picking the team members involved. Next, summarize when they should take action and in what manner. Also, where and how they should start executing the plan.

At any point, they should utilize effective communication tools. So, assign roles revolving around making notes and passing them along. Similarly, plan out how often they should provide an update to the project manager.

If possible, make a separate document for each identified risk. That way, your team will know the best course of action to apply to a situation. Also, their interventions shouldn’t hinder the other department in the slightest. Instead, risk management should allow for regular business operations and don’t upset the timeline.


The contingency plan should be clear and accessible to all team members. That group spreads to the stakeholders as well.

Also, allow for a fair feedback period so they can pitch in. If someone provides constructive criticism, try to implement them and improve.

Revise and maintain

Since all contingency plans deal with insecurities, their content is subject to changes. To stay on top of things, you should observe the process and update the frame. For example, ensure the use of all new recruits and resources acquired later.

Benefits and Expectations

Boost the team’s efficacy levels

Frequent road bumps can slow your progress to a halt. Thus, your responses to unforeseen developments should be effective. At the same time, this protects your other resources from rapid depletion.

Build a momentum

Time losses shouldn’t have serious ramifications. Instead, you should be able to get back on the horse as soon as possible.

Thus, the project contingency should direct the team during such critical times. Otherwise, not knowing what to do will only add to the downward slope.

Protect your assets

Negative events can also be strategic opportunities to make headway elsewhere. So, a plan in project management should branch out to many areas.

That way, you won’t have to cease operations across the board completely. Instead, utilize various project contingency plans to preserve your stride and minimize the damage.

Reduce the impact

Your brand’s image is among the most valuable qualities. However, suffering huge losses due to a single incident can mar your reputation.

Hence, you should have a risk management recovery plan going in the background at all times. Often, that is the result of contingency planning in project management.

Support the project team

Sudden losses due to external factors can produce panic among the ranks. The situation can only get worse if there isn’t a guide to follow after an incident. That’s where a contingency plan in project management comes in. It incest all risk factors and provides feasible workarounds toward the project’s success.

Other than that, here are several more focal points around contingency planning:

  • Do not deem your backup plan an afterthought
  • Avoid relying only on Plan A or staking too much in its full completion
  • When making a contingency plan, spend proper time identifying the risk factors

Conclusion on Contingency Planning in Project Management

Having an actionable plan that you can follow once things go south is a must. Such a Plan B should provide clear guidelines and reduce panic across all departments. As such, its creation shouldn’t be a low-priority task for project managers.

The fact is that most of the time, an actual issue occurs when we least expect it. That may upset the whole project plan and even lead to project failure. Plus, this can happen even to an experienced organization. A viable contingency plan can effectively mitigate such developments.

Negative effects can often pile up and leave you without much free space. During such a crisis, you won’t have the means to start planning. Therefore, you shouldn’t overly invest in a single course of action. Instead, invest in a proper business contingency plan. Even if only an outline, it can show the path to the next milestone. 

If you liked this article talking about contingency planning in project management, you should check out this one about project management for non-project managers.

I also wrote about similar topics like operations management vs project management, gold plating in project management, monitoring in project management, forward pass in project management, and scheduling techniques in project management.

I like project management a lot so I also wrote about project management lead time, fast-tracking in project management, and project management OKRs.


I'm the manager behind the Upcut Studio team. I've been involved in content marketing for quite a few years helping startups grow.