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Don’t Be a Project Management Lemming!
By Kiron D. Bondale

Given the progressive decline in oil prices over the past year, economic slowdowns in Asia impacting other global markets, and poor performance to date across multiple stock exchanges, it is not a surprise that many investors are tempted to sell their investments at a loss and make like Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow, planning to re-enter the market only when the bulls start a sustained run.

This is generally not a good idea as markets will eventually recover and the upside opportunities of buying during a bear run can be a worthwhile prize for those who are able to control the reaction to their fears.

In the project management domain, you might have witnessed project teams panicking in the face of some looming crisis. Decisions made by the teams or their project managers under these sorts of conditions are usually driven more by emotions more than measured analysis. Fear is contagious – all it takes is one influential team member or stakeholder to succumb and it will spread like wildfire.

We know that uncertainty and unrealistic expectations are as much part of the DNA of projects as they are stock markets so how can you help your team avoid a “fight or flight” response?

  • Inoculate yourself – assuming you haven’t succumbed to the fear contagion, breathe deeply and step away from the problem long enough to create perspective. Mindfulness techniques can provide you with different approaches of preparing to handle the stress of the situation. Recognize that the events which led up to the current crisis cannot be rewritten, and that the future is uncertain so focus on what you can control which is your current behavior. If you still feel yourself panicking, meet with a trusted peer or mentor who isn’t directly involved with the project – sometimes just speaking about your fears can help to defuse them.
  • Buy yourself some time – delaying critical decisions can have negative outcomes, but rushing to make such decisions under stressful conditions can be worse, especially if there isn’t a pressing reason to do so. If the decision can wait for a little while, focus your efforts on elevating team morale and lowering their stress levels. Meet with them individually or as a team and listen to their concerns. Empathize with them and help them understand that things are not as bleak as they seem. Encourage them to draw upon their past experiences and the strength of the team to overcome the current problem.

  • Use the tools of your trade – our project management utility belts contain multiple tools for making good decisions during a crisis including assumptions analysis, risk identification, cost/benefit analysis, decisions trees and expected monetary value.

Rudyard Kipling – If you can keep your head when all about you, Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.

Kiron D. Bondale, PMP, PMI-RMP has managed multiple mid-to-large-sized technology and change management projects, and has worked in both internal and professional services project management capacities. He has setup and managed Project Management Offices (PMO) and has provided project portfolio management and project management consulting services to clients across multiple industries.

Kiron is an active member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and served as a volunteer director on the Board of the PMI Lakeshore Chapter for six years.

Kiron has published articles on Project and Project Portfolio Management in both project management-specific journals (PM Network, PMI-ISSIG journal, Projects & Profits) as well as industry-specific journals (ILTA Peer-to-peer). He has delivered almost a hundred webinar presentations on a variety of PPM and PM topics and has presented at multiple industry conferences including HIMSS, MISA and ProjectWorld. In addition to this blog, Kiron contributes articles on a monthly basis to ProjectTimes.com.

Kiron is a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organization change that addresses process & technology, but most important, people will maximize your chances for success. You can reach Kiron at kiron_bondale@yahoo.ca

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