Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

A Case for Communicating Project Challenges

Let’s face it – we are in the profession of project management because we love challenges.  Challenges are what makes our blood boil.  Otherwise, why would be sign up for a job whose nature is “unique” and “temporary”? I could go a step further and say that many of us like to be the hero. I’ll admit it, my favorite days are days that a potentially large fire was extinguished or avoided.  However, our profession is fraught with the potential for challenges outside our experience, understanding, responsibility, or ability.  As hard as it is to admit when this type of challenge as come our way, I will explain why it is essential that we are prepared to communicate and work with our project stakeholders, as well as our peers, to ensure a successful project outcome.

Humility

Even us project managers are human. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you.  You are not likely to be judged because an issue has come your way, but you will be judged if that issue has a long term or fatal consequence on the project. I believe in the adage that the best managers hire people smarter than themselves. We also need to keep in mind that those above us in the organization got there for a reason.  Don’t let pride get in the way of leveraging the great resources that you have around you when a challenge is presented.

Information

Those around you likely have information that can assist you in working the issue.  Hearing what is happening may prompt getting these valuable tidbits that otherwise would not be available. Here you may learn the root cause of the problem so you can address the heart of the matter. Perhaps you will get valuable advice on how to work with a particular problem stakeholder. Whatever it is, information will provide you greater understanding to resolve the issue better and faster.

Experience

There are very few true unique experiences in the world. While something may be a new experience to you, chances are one of your peers or stakeholders have been in a similar position.  Being able to tap into the collective history of your stakeholders is a very valuable asset.  Unless they hear what you are experiencing, they will not know to share their similar experiences and what they learned as a result. You will be robbing yourself of a chance to learn from experiences of others.

Support

The project goals are the goals of your stakeholders.  It is for the good of the order that stakeholders offer support in terms of empathy and assistance when the going gets tough.  However, empathy and assistance will not be available if you are not willing to communicate the need.  You are more likely to hear “what can I do to help” if that person knows it is needed and it would be appreciated.  Finding and taking support to resolve a challenge will make you a better project manager.

Recognition

Avoiding, resolving and mitigating issues is hard and long work.  You need to be able to share information on issues in order to be recognized for these efforts. Otherwise you run the risk that stakeholders thinking you have been neglecting the project in entirety, when in reality tasks were deferred as an issue was being worked.  Don’t give away the opportunity to question the value you have brought to the project.  Besides, you deserve an “atta-boy” (or girl) for a job well done.

I will conclude with this final thought.

‘Do not waste my time with telling me how good you are. You were hired because I know you are good. Tell me the barriers the project has so that I know where my assistance is needed.’  Vivek Kundra, US CIO, Keynote PMI Global Congress October 10, 2010

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One response to “A Case for Communicating Project Challenges

  1. Pingback: Project Management Communication Posts: Best of the Best « Professional Project Services

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