In the Middle of a Failing Project

Projects do fail, fall apart, go bad, sour.  Projects don’t always always go well – at least for most of us less than perfect PMs, regardless of our skills, training and experience. Often the reasons why are outside our control, sometimes we are directly responsible. Sometimes we are back in middle school and on that basketball team that never wins a game, with that unlikable Mr. Wise as coach, yelling, shaking his head, never having fun. The guy that disliked you too. 

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’
— Eleanor Roosevelt

#PMI does’t provide a good compass and map for us to use and follow during turbulent times, they don't even give us some encouragement. Their message is different. I have always been perplexed on the organization’s poor treatment of human and organizational psychology in the documentation that they call A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). “Weak” being an understatement. Basketball camp was the same way, they never taught you how to be on a losing team and help turn it around. To be fair to PMI, a guide that promises to contain the entire body of knowledge on even a bug in the back yard is going to have to be brief on many topics, if you really expect to gather all of the knowledge up in your arms and throw it into a short document structured with inputs and outputs.  


Nevertheless, I guess we all know resilience is one of those things we need to draw on when things are going badly in the project world and we don't need the Project Management Institute to tell us that. We also sort of know that in the process of kick-starting our resilience we need to cultivate that resilience and get it ready again for those future projects. We know it will happen again, as long as we do anything in life. Those future projects that are going to feel like the one we are managing right now, the one that feels stuck up against a rock in the river's current, with dark clouds moving in above that are about to burst open. With real people expecting results, waiting on us, judging progress. This is what we need, resilience, more than tools and techniques  -  when the project is under the line of despair. When we can't lift, but it still needs to be completed and that finish milestone is way at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel.


The 6 Steps to Turning Setbacks Into Advantages

The 6 Steps to Turning Setbacks Into Advantages