By: Karen Meyers, PMI Houston contributor
The word, UNEXPECTED, probably raises the hair on your neck. Doesn't it? A Project Manager's worst nightmare. The mention of this word brings to mind a negative experience like a project or a situation you did not anticipate. You might have had ideas on how to resolve it, but you had to wrap your mind around the issue, what caused it, then the solution--quickly.
Everyday life is full of unexpected events. If you travel via airplane, you should expect your flight to be delayed, your luggage might not make it to your destination at the time of your arrival, or your flight was canceled altogether.
We all know that most projects have a level of uncertainty. We plan for and prepare for the worst case scenarios like:
- Inclement weather conditions
- Resources that become unavailable along the critical path
- A system malfunction or changes in technology
- Governmental or legal regulations
- Organizational changes such as merger or acquisition
… and more!
These few examples might disrupt our projects--but as project managers, we are trained to expect and to react to the UNEXPECTED, figure out how to successfully mitigate the issue and put the project back on track.
It's like playing with a Jack-in-the-box. As you turn the spindle you know that the clown will pop out any minute, yet flinch when it happens. Here are some tips (from someone with a TYPE A personality) for dealing with the UNEXPECTED, from a human perspective.
First and foremost, if there is a radical change in your project, and you should face an UNEXPECTED situation, remember to lead with a "Positive Attitude". It may not seem like it, but there is a solution to every problem. Some say, " It's not what you take, but how you take it.". If you possess a positive attitude, you will give your team and other stakeholders a boost and the confidence that there will be a solution and a positive outcome.
Everyone will remember these events as a positive experience because of your attitude. You have an option. Decide first to make it a positive experience!
Draw from Past Experience
When we learn from mistakes or UNEXPECTED experiences and situations--we can make things better going forward. There are typically peaks and valleys with every project; but that doesn’t mean that you will react and follow specific procedures outlined in a textbook; because after all, you are human and not a robot. Every scenario has its different nuisances, but it pays to remember when something similar occurred with one of your projects and the steps the team took to get the project back on track. One way to draw on experience is to go back to previous project documents and review the lessons learned.