Challenges Keep the Team Focused on Project SuccessA project that goes off without any issues, risks and challenges seems like a great thing.  And maybe it has it’s place, but challenges are a good thing and there is no denying that the most talented project resources – project managers included – are at their best when tested and challenged.  So yes, like the title states, I believe that risks can help keep the project manager and team focused on project success and will keep everyone on their toes.

Edginess is good – at least from time to time. Risk is challenging.  Risk is energizing.  Fighting risk keeps a team cohesive.  It definitely can work to keep everyone on the project team engaged.  And it can keep you from losing a key project resource that you might otherwise have to give up if you’re project is moving along smoothly.  By now I realize you probably think I’m crazy, but keep reading on….

No easy projects.  I’m sure everyone wishes their projects were all ‘easy’ and without incident.  At least as the project kicks off right out of the gate, they’re probably saying some sort of little prayer that nothing goes wrong.  But we all know that any project of any size that matters is going to experience issues – often at least one significant setback. No huge, visible, challenging project is ever going to be easy and perfectly, swimmingly successful.  Ever.  If someone tells you their big project is running smoothly and perfectly then they are lying – or worse – they’re unaware.  When you tie together a group of opinionated, highly skilled individuals who also have other responsibilities than the ones you give them, and you add a customer with high expectations and large expenditures and you sprinkle in an enterprise-wide solution with somewhat vague requirements, (because requirements always have some degree of vagueness to them), there’s no way it’s going to go perfectly or smoothly.

Use the challenges to your advantage.  I think we can all agree that your big project isn’t going to run from start to finish without experiencing some issues – without some of the identified risks becoming realities.  Of course, be sure to focus a decent amount of effort on identifying and managing those issues and risks during planning and on an ongoing basis.  Make the entire project team own them…both the delivery side and the customer side.  Ownership breeds caring, engagement, and cohesion.  And focus.  In turn, that all breeds productivity, increased responsibility and definitely accountability.  And all of those are very good things.

We all can agree that work seems more satisfying and goes faster when there is some degree of non-monotonous activities going on?  Having a few fires to fight will definitely keep you on your toes. The same goes for the project.  Don’t get me wrong, if I have several projects I’m leading at once, I’d prefer to not have multiple fires to fight on each project at the same time.  I wouldn’t even mind if a few of those projects are easy ones.  But having fires around – and unmitigated risks can become huge fires – then things can never get boring.  Let me clarify…I’m not saying one should let those risks and issues become big fires.  But the challenge of identifying, assigning, managing and mitigating those risks and issues breeds creativity and brings a team together like nothing else.  You don’t have to actually face the adversity, but knowing it’s out there if you don’t work together and do something about it, brings a team together on a common goal and can make for a very enjoyable…and successful project.

Summary / call for input

No doubt, the best strategy is to stay a few steps ahead of project risks.  Do the upfront planning necessary to identify potential risks to your project and document the mitigation and avoidance strategies in as much detail as possible for each of those identified risks.  But do it as a team…and if the risks come up, fight them as a team.  It can really bring a project team together that was otherwise going through the motions as the project is smoothly and subtly lulling them to sleep.

Readers…what are your thoughts on this topic?  Do you like the easy project or the challenging project?  What thoughts would you add to this article?