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The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun

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11.1. Apply the rough guide

"You can blame people who knock things over in the dark, or you can begin to light candles. You're only at fault if you know about the problem and choose to do nothing."

—Paul Hawken

This section is a simple primer on how to handle difficult situations. Later on I'll cover some of the common situations and offer specific advice, but this general guide should help you work through whatever it is that led you to flip to this chapter.

  1. Calm down. Nothing makes a situation worse than basing your actions on fear, anger, or frustration. If something bad happens to you, you will have these emotions whether you're aware of them or not. They will also influence your thinking and behavior whether you're aware of it or not. (Rule of thumb: the less aware you are of your feelings, the more vulnerable you are to them influencing you.) Don't flinch or overreact; be patient, keep breathing, and pay attention.

  2. Evaluate the problem in relation to the project. Just because someone else thinks the sky has fallen doesn't mean that it has. Is this really a problem at all? Whose problem is it? How much of the project (or its goals) is at risk or may need to change because of this situation: 5%? 20%? 90%? Put things in perspective. Will anyone die because of this mistake (you're not a brain surgeon, are you?)? Will any cities be leveled? Plagues delivered on the innocent? Help everyone frame the problem to the right emotional and intellectual scale. Ask tons of questions and ...

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