Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@ddmcd.com) consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management. Follow him on Google+. He publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain and volunteers with the Alexandria Film Festival. He is also on Linkedin. To subscribe to emailed updates about additions to this web site click here.

On Managing Projects in a Chaotic Environment

On Managing Projects in a Chaotic Environment

By Dennis D. McDonald

Experienced project managers know that change happens. Key staff members leave. Stakeholders change. Corporate priorities shift overnight. Natural disasters make it impossible for staff to come to work.

While managing the ripple effects of “putting fires out” you learn to address such challenges even if your first reaction is to panic. (“What to do you mean you agreed to move the due date up two weeks!?”)

But what if it seems like the environment of the project you’re managing really is chaotic? What if, on an almost daily basis, the corporate ground you’re standing on seems to shift under your feet?

Here are some signs:

  • Your sponsor is never available to talk with you and important decisions keep getting put off.
  • It’s impossible to keep up with all the externally imposed schedule changes.
  • You’re spending all your time putting out fires.
  • Key staff originally assigned to you are being pulled off  -- and you’re the last to know.
  • No one seems to care about the number of “red lights” in your weekly status reports.
  • You find yourself renegotiating everything you thought was decided a long ago.
  • Your projects “change management process” has become a standing joke -- even to you.

No matter how politically savvy you are, you need to know whether the chaos is related to the environment or to your own political position. Is the environment really crazy, or have your adversaries “tasted blood” because you’re perceived as weak and unable to resist, say, having your key staff poached?

This is where the quality of stakeholder relationships come into play.

If your stakeholders aren’t supportive, you’re probably doomed. Time to go.

On the other hand, if your stakeholders are supportive, you need to assess how tied they are into the power structure.

Either way, you are in for some rough times.

Copyright © 2018 by Dennis D. McDonald

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