Things go wrong all the time– often when you least expect them to! A key skill that project managers need to have is the ability to deal with unexpected project issues in the most efficient, professional and appropriate manner possible. The recent events on Oscar night has some valuable lessons for all project managers:

(1) Risk: Just because certain project elements have always gone right for you before, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security and expect the unexpected. Sometimes the problem can be literally staring you in the face and such a false sense of security can often undermine your ability to detect a problem in time. Also don’t forget to always keep an eye on that risk register and always challenge assumptions!

(2) Leadership: When a problem does arise unexpectedly, you need to show leadership, admit the problem, deal with it and get on with the show!  There is no point in hoping the problem goes away and the quicker the issue is acknowledged, the better chances of a successful solution. If the issue is your fault as the project manager, then own the problem and don’t hide behind it

(3) Communication: It is of course often easy to look like a good communicator when things are going your way, but often the real test of a project manager is when the bad news arrive and how you communicate will often reveal your real communication skills. The old adage of a problem shared is a problem halved is very apt here and certainly in a crisis, clear communication is key and certainly there is no place for any sugar coating or delays.

(4) No Drama: Leave the song and dance to the professionals!  A cool, calm and collected response to an unexpected issue is critical for a project manager as otherwise panic can often infiltrate the project team and stakeholder leading to uncertainty, fear and mistrust which can actually cause more issues than the actual initial problem. Simple basic manners and empathy should also be core to one’s approach in dealing with crisis issues. Don’t play the blame game!

(5) Lessons Learnt:  Make sure you do this post-project and invite the right people and do not conduct it as a courtroom drama and most importantly document it and make it easily accessible to all that may learn from it.

Created by:      Jerry Giltenane

Company:        Aspira

Position:          Project Services Director

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