#&*%# happens, right?  We expect issues and problems (to some degree) on our projects. Heck, conflict can sometimes occur with team members, the customer or even with other projects in the organization.

It’s natural… It happens… But what if the conflict is between two of “your” projects?

But wait? You’re the project manager, an expert!

Wearing the mantle of Project Manager doesn’t make you immune to project conflicts – regardless of the situation.  Organizational changes, client driven issues or just simple delays on one project all can have a rippling effect across the other projects you have on your plate. So what do you do?

It’s not like you can tell your CEO he’s screwed up your projects, or inform your customer they’re out of luck, right???

Strangely this situation is more common than people like to admit. Project Managers and their teams like to believe they have all of these internal and external factors under control, but like I said… #&*%# happens.

I for one have not been immune, but was fortunate enough to follow a very simple, four-step process to navigate through the issues and keep my projects on track. Let’s examine each step…

Communicate: As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, communication is key. Make sure you alert all stakeholders when a project impacting issue arises. It’s far better to be open and honest with the customer, and your team, as soon as possible. It can mean the difference between owning the blame and sharing the ownership on the issue. Let your customer and team help you assess the situation and jointly work the problem and develop a solution. If they understand what you’re up against, then they’ll better understand the decisions you need to make and can work with you much easier.

Adapt: Good Project Managers are able to adapt to nearly any situation. See if you can make any tweaks to the schedule. Your customer may know something you don’t which will allow one of the projects to slide without causing timing or budget issues. Combining communication with adaptability will, 9 times out of 10, result in a saved project.

Request: While getting a new resource onboard and up to speed – even if it’s only temporary – can have a negative impact on the project budget, failure to “bite the bullet” in order to ensure the project moves forward according to plan is worse. If communicated properly and your customer is on-board, you may be able to issue a change order to cover the cost of the new resource. However, even if your company needs to eat the cost on this particular issue – getting the project back on track is the primary concern.

Execute: Don’t let these issues hinder your project’s inertia. Move forward with whatever solution you, your team and even the customer are able to develop. Communicate the results, adapt as necessary and request help when and where needed.  Remember, you’re a Project Manager not Superman.

Look, in projects as in life, things don’t always go smoothly – but when its due to one of our own projects… that just seems to sting a little bit more as it puts us in a very unique conflict situation. But we need to own the problem and work with our customer and team to come up with the best solution…as quickly as possible.