Workers arriving late, customers changing their orders and the bankruptcy of a key vendor are examples of events that might occur almost on a daily basis. The key challenge of every successful project manager is coping with the above frequent and unexpected events.
A study employing more than 150 successful project managers from more than 20 organizations revealed that the success of a project manager today is based on combining the traditional approach, which emphasizes that the success of any project requires stability, and the agile approach, which emphasizes that the success of any project requires massive flexibility during the project’s life.
A recent research indicated that, Develop collaboration, Integrate planning and review with learning, Prevent major disruptions and Maintaining forward momentum are the main four roles that would help successful project managers cope with unexpected events.
First, developing collaboration is essential for both: the early detection of difficulties and the quick development and smooth implementation of solutions. The level of collaboration amongst team members is the primary factor that can distinguish the successful mission from the failed missions. Second, Integrate planning and review with learning. Successful project managers tend to develop detailed short-term plans and tentative long-term plans once they realise that their organisation’s commitments cannot be met. They do not limit the learning process to the learning phase only but also use it during the project review phase. Third, prevent major disruptions. Even in calm situations, project managers never stop expecting unpleasant surprises hence; they are always anticipating disruptions and retaining the flexibility to react positively and immediately since it is easier to tackle a threat before it expands. Forth, maintain forward momentum. When unexpected events hit a specific task, all other tasks that are dependent will instantly get impacted.
Another research was conducted with a group of 20 project managers that focused on “how best to cope with unexpected events”. It was observed that most of the managers retained three complementary practices: “hand-on engagement, frequent face-to-face communication and frequent moving about”.
Projects with traditional management approach are intention-driven, while projects with agile management approach are event-driven. Nowadays, successful project managers must be both intention-driven and event-driven. They should be “people-oriented” when developing collaboration, “information-oriented” when integrating planning, “action-oriented” when preventing major disruption and at last, they should adopt all the three above mentioned orientations when maintain forward momentum.
In today’s dynamic environment, unexpected events will eventually occur at anytime during the life of the project however; a successful project manager has to be flexible and work toward minimizing the frequency and negative impact of such events. The project manager needs to respond quickly and effectively as soon as the problem has been acknowledge.
The article highlighted four of the most important roles that a successful manager must practice and implement while dealing with these events. I believe that the importance of the above roles varies from one project to another depending on the nature of the project as well as the capability of its team members.