DON’T PANIC! STEPS TO STEM THE TIDE OF WORRY

Panic in a PMO is a terrible thing. It crushes productivity and saps morale. Helping project team members confront and deal with frightening situations can be difficult, particularly if the senior leadership group is facing the same concerns. Fortunately, a set of baseline steps can bring the team together to address the anxiety in front of them and help get everyone back on track.

Get informed. Panic is often driven by one of two things: Misinformation or no information. If you have a feeling of dread when it comes to a project (or perhaps a particular task or issue), take it as a cue that you probably need better information. If possible, go straight to the source. A trusted vendor may be able to answer your questions, as might another internal team member with direct knowledge of the situation. Avoid simply asking around inside the PMO, as you’re likely to receive details of the same dubious origin you have now. Gathering the facts allows you to tackle the problem from a real-world perspective.

Communicate. If you suspect others in the PMO are shifting into panic mode, consider what information you may have that would be useful in helping them better understand the current lay of the land. Even if you don’t hold the key to quelling the team’s concerns, bringing everyone together to discuss the project’s status and provide a progress review can be immensely helpful. It encourages other PMPs to ask questions in a safe environment (sometimes team members don’t know who to ask or feel it’s inappropriate to dig for details) and also shows those who are worried that they probably aren’t alone. Camaraderie can be a powerful tool in times like these.

Look for solutions. Continuing to sit around and worry is rarely an effective way to address panic. Instead, pull the team together and begin brainstorming. Talk about potential fixes and evaluate if additional help—either assistance from another department or perhaps an experienced outside consultant—might be needed. Openly discuss the triggers behind the team’s concerns. These conversations may be uncomfortable (fear of failure usually is), but reassure team members that they should speak candidly and without fear of reprisal. Finger pointing solves nothing, and you’ll need to be ready to shut it down if it occurs. Keep the focus on finding workable solutions.

Focus on avoiding panic next time. Falling into panic mode is nearly guaranteed if the PMO repeats the same steps that led team members to become concerned in the first place. Improve communication channels within the team as well as with stakeholder and external partners. Maintain tighter focus on milestones, resource management, and activity planning. Employing a proven project control methodology is a wise approach. Not only will it keep the current can’t-fail project on track, it also allows the team to carefully manage their time and resources, ensuring that future projects don’t stumble and push the team into panic mode again.

Admit you may not be able to address every worry immediately. There are times when panic descends for reasons that simply can’t be fixed right away, even by seasons PMPs. Rumors of staffing cuts or lost contracts, for example, can easily spread terror through the team. Rather than searching for solutions (which the PMO may not be in a position to provide) instead bring the group together to evaluate existing workloads and discuss how best to deal with potential impacts. You might not be able to formulate a solid plan to deal with every issue on the horizon, but the PMO will be prepared to tackle unpleasant realities if necessary.

Pitfalls o fBig Projects

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.

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