Keep the Momentum Going: A Project Manager’s Plan to Sustaining High Team Performance on Time-Sensitive Projects



By Bria R. Griffith, PMP and

Brenda N. Yombo, PMP

CohnReznick Government and Public Sector Advisory

Bethesda, MD, USA



A confluence of recent natural and manmade disasters—such as Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, and Sandy; environmental disasters such as the Gulf Coast oil spill; and global threats including bioterrorism and cybersecurity breaches—have caused a heightened demand for resilient disaster recovery program and project planning. In light of the increased frequency of these catastrophic events in recent years, project team managers have borne the onus of grooming talented teams, and then leading team members at high-performance levels consistently throughout the full lifecycle of the recovery program. Since project managers often initially assume leadership roles to oversee short-term relief projects, their time is focused less on consideration for building team rapport and nearly solely on meeting deadlines; yet, if the project’s duration extends to satisfy a long-term recovery mission, the project team must shore up its performance to see the project through to its conclusion. Once team members have become acclimated in their roles and with their cohorts, project managers must proactively engage with the team as a whole to stave off complacency. By utilizing traditional team development life cycle models such as Bruce Tuckman’s, while incorporating the preventative aspects of supplemental models such as Tom Edison’s that expand upon the Tuckman foundation, project managers can create their own high performance framework which, when executed correctly, creates a high-momentum pace successfully sustained over the course of the recovery program.


Despite the planning and mitigation efforts of governments, businesses, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), catastrophic events not only cause widespread physical destruction, but also severely disrupt the social and economic balances in communities. The crippling physical, psychological, and financial impact of these disasters is felt many years after the event has occurred. Therefore, the affected citizens and governments, as well as responding aid givers, face difficult, long-term challenges of disaster recovery (Leonard & Howitt, 2012). Decisions affecting community welfare—many of which may have long-lasting impacts—are made under intense pressure and scrutiny because it is not realistic to take into account the views, priorities, and concerns of each individual stakeholder (Natural Hazards Center, 2001). Project managers in the disaster recovery field, not uncommonly, may struggle to skillfully balance competing priorities (e.g., regulatory, financial, political, contractual, etc.), which all require them to employ a variety of tools and tactics to complete the project. According to Project Management Institute’s (PMI, 2013) Pulse of the professionTM report, properly aligning team members’ individual talent with the project’s long-term strategy can reap a project success rate, on average, of 14% higher than a poorly aligned team and plan respectively. If the recent rise in both natural and manmade disasters has proven any indication, those responsible for leading recovery efforts must be skilled at building and sustaining high team performance to meet the demand.

Disaster response and recovery activities are often assigned to teams unfamiliar with these activities; therefore, roles and responsibilities are often undefined and may lead to duplicative efforts (Natural Hazards Center, 2001). This only increases the need for project managers to be highly adept at effective team building. In the early stages of immediate disaster relief – i.e., when goodwill sentiments are highest – project managers must seek, identify, support, and rely upon those individuals who inspire others through their creativity, ingenuity, optimism, willingness to work productively, and to make difficult choices, and accept sacrifices (Ahlers, Howitt & Leonard, 2011).


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 2nd annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium in College Park, Maryland, USA in June 2015. It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.


About the Authors

pmwj37-Aug2015-Griffith-PHOTO BRIABria R. Griffith

Maryland, USA



Bria R. Griffith
, PMP is a Senior Manager with CohnReznick Government and Public Sector Advisory. Bria has most recently worked with the disaster recovery units of New York, Louisiana and Mississippi administering disaster recovery programs, assisting with fund compliance and monitoring, project administration and coordination, business process analysis, creating training programs, among other things.

Prior to working as a management consultant, Bria gained experience in handling multiple large contracts and delivering projects on schedule and within budget in the aerospace and automotive industries as a Supply Chain Buyer and Materials Manager.

Giving back and empowering communities is also important to Bria. With CohnReznick, she leads the National Social Impact Committee and the Pay it Forward subcommittee.

The Warren County Youth Court swore her in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, representing abused and neglected children who have been removed from their homes. Her devotion to seeing the lives of children improve led her to serve as a Junior Achievement classroom volunteer for seven years. She took the devotion to children and her mind for business and took on the tremendous task of spearheading Lemonade Day Greater Jackson, a program that teaches children about entrepreneurship and life skills.

Bria holds a MBA in International Leadership and a BBA in Business Administration and Political Science, both degrees from Millsaps College, Jackson, MS, USA. She can be contacted at [email protected]


pmwj26-sep2014-Yombo-AUTHOR1 YOMBOBrenda N. Yombo

Maryland, USA



Brenda N. Yombo,
MBA, PMP, CPA is a Senior Consultant with the CohnReznick Government and Public Sector Advisory team. Brenda has over 13 years of project management, accounting and consulting experience. Brenda has worked on a number of projects providing support and as project Manager.

Currently she serves as a senior team member on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Mark-to-Market (M2M) Multifamily project. A multi-million dollar project analyzing Audited Financial Statements, liaising with HUD Project Managers, property owners and HUD’s Office of Multifamily Asset Management and Portfolio oversight (OAMPO) officials. She also worked with the compliance monitoring team on the Illinois Disaster Recovery program (IDRP) testing grants provided to grantees and the work performed on various projects to rebuild Chicago after the IKE disaster. She also assists on various consulting projects on the CohnReznick Government and Public Sector Advisory team.

Prior to immigrating to the US in 2010, Brenda gained experience in handling multiple management consultancy contracts, delivering on schedule and within allocated budget. She was a Project Coordinator for projects of Christoffel Blinden Mission (CBM) an international non-profit that strives to remove the barriers that marginalize people with disabilities in the most disadvantaged societies in the world. It does this by working with partner organizations in these regions, by influencing policy at all levels and by responding to emergencies and natural disasters. Brenda has a MBA degree (Accounting and Finance) from Maastricht School of Management, Netherlands and a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree from Makerere University, Kampala-Uganda. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in Virginia, Brenda also holds certifications from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Project Management Professional (PMP).

Brenda can be contacted at [email protected].