A lesson in Pressure, Assuming & Project Management 101

0 Posted by - May 6, 2011 - Leadership, Skills & Tools, Views & Interviews


Most days I pass by an iconic roundabout known as the ‘Clock Tower Roundabout’. However this morning is of particular interest because it’s where the drama begins. I’m at the front of my lane waiting for an opening to make the mad dash out and around the roundabout. The car in my left lane is so far forward blocking my vision so I’m not able to judge the distance, speed or situation of the oncoming traffic for myself.


Like clockwork within 10 – 15 seconds the person behind me begins exercising the car horn, looking into my rear view mirror I can see a figure frantically waving and ranting at me to move with the car on my left. I could give in to pressure but this means blindly trusting and assuming that this driver’s checks and judgement are sound and similar to mine. I refuse to be pressurized or panic into moving until I can see the situation for myself.


As the one in the driving seat, in charge I decide to hold my ground until I am confident and secure that it’s safe to move. I know that a rash or miscalculated assumption could result in an accident that could be fatal for my passengers, the cars and negatively impact everyone in the traffic around me.


And the purpose of this story… Those who haven’t made the link may be wondering what this has to do with Project Management?


Let’s imagine the scenario of a harassed PM leading a software implementation project, management and users in the organisation are making ‘noise’ and pressurising, as they want the new system up and running NOW! And the vendor is ‘honking the horn’ ready and eager pressuring to move on to the next phase and ‘Go Live’. However you the PM are still going through all the risk and quality checks and are not entirely satisfied from team updates that the project is ready to move to the next phase.

Do you give in to the user ‘traffic’ or the vendor ‘car horn’?

Off course not! A PM should only move on secure in the knowledge they can see the full picture and have completed all checks, measures and assurances for them self.


The simple everyday scenario of the roundabout is no different to the Project environment where managers are routinely put under the spotlight and cross-examined. In the real world it is not easy to block out stakeholder ‘banter’ and ‘noise’. To assume management, users and vendors know better than you and the project team is a mistake. Ultimately it is you and your team in the driving seat who has to make the judgments from the situation and information in view and be responsible for moving the project on.


A Project Manager who is unable to ‘take control of the wheel’ and know when to block out unnecessary ‘noise’ will more than likely steer the project off track, increase risks and lead towards the wrong direction.


How can PM’s ensure they are the ones who stay in the ‘driver seat?”

This situation is the subject of many case studies and research by thinkers and experts. The answer to the question is simple PM’s need to be Tough Minded, Aware, Decisive, Reliable and Manage Pressure, in short have LEADERSHIP SKILLS!



In my ‘leadership’ seminars I intentionally make a point of emphasizing on Leadership skills because I sincerely believe those who have them are generally grounded and more focused. They are better decision makers, less likely to be influenced by assumptions and rarely regret stances they take.  These individuals tend to ask the right questions, feed of others positively and more likely to produce all round project happiness and success.


No one will ever thank a Project professional who bends under pressure and can’t lead. Project Management 101 for those in leadership should read:


1 Comment

  • Nascot Ridge May 19, 2011 - 7:13 pm Reply

    Your website and the contents are a ‘breath-of-fresh air’. I, a Project Manager myself, quite enjoyed reading your article and the connection between the ‘harassed driver being urged to risk and move forward at the roundabout and a harassed project manager being asked to cut-short the validation period and launch the product with known risks (bugs or likely system lock-out).
    Your question Do you give in to the user ‘traffic’ or the vendor ‘car horn’?
    The answer is both ‘YES and NO’.
    Project/Programme Managers are expected to deliver “more and more with less and less (time, resources and budgets etc)”, and that has in part led to project plans that exist in a “vacuum” and they are not without risks.
    Whether it’s the pressure of ‘honking the horn’ to move-on at the traffic roundabout or the software project lunch without complete validation; the simple answer has to be ‘carry out risk analysis and base your judgement on the statistical chances of danger of an accident at the roundabout or a failure of an engineered and/or software system.
    Nascot Ridge

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