Contingency Plan vs Fallback Plan

Confusing terms series – in this new series, i would like to give you explanations on terms which are not easy to understood. Concepts, defintion and term which can be challenging for the exam.

There are two major types of planning: Contingency Plan and Fallback Plan — both the Contingency Plan and the Fallback Plan are developed in advance during Plan Risk Responses process.

  • Contingency Plan: is developed to be taken only when risk event occurs
  • only for risks that have been accepted
  • for identified risks (known unknowns)
  • developed during Plan Risk Responses process
  • Fallback Plan: is developed to deal with risks if the primary planned risk response is not effective
    • to be taken after the Contingency Plan
    • for identified risks (known unknowns)
    • developed during Plan Risk Responses process

In short, Contingency Plan (also known as Contingent Response Strategies) are developed for specific accepted risk with certain triggers while Fallback Plan is used when the planned primary risk response (e.g. Contingency Plan) is not effective (meaning of “Plan B”).


Let’s take the project of PMP® Exam study and preparation as an example to illustrate the concept of Contingency Plan and Fallback Plan.

Falling ill during exam preparation is one of the top risks that may adversely affect the exam preparation and taking. Though in theory there are a number of measures that can be taken to minimize the risk of falling sick; in reality, there are not much you can do to avoid the risk. Hence, you will just accept falling ill as an accepted risk.

For every accepted risk, there are two plans that need to be developed:

  • Contingency Plan — accelerate the exam preparation by taking annual leave from work so as to catch up with the original PMP® Exam preparation schedule
  • Fallback Plan — postpone the exam date (even if an administration fee is required — a US $70 fee will be charged if you reschedule or cancel your exam within 30 calendar days of the appointment)


In project risk management, identified accepted risks may be handled (should they occur) with Contingency Plan and Fallback Plan:

  • Contingency Plan: the pre-developed risk response strategies to be taken if the actively accepted risks occur
  • Fallback Plan: the pre-developed risk response strategies to be taken if the primary risk response is not effective

Note: the costs dealing with identified risks are included in the contingency reserve

In addition, for all unidentified risks (unknown unknowns), workaround would be carried out:

  • Workaround: the immediate risk response strategies for unidentified or passively accepted risks occur in order to contain the damages against the project plan (the costs dealing with identified risks can be obtained from the management reserve upon management approval)

Leave a Reply