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Tag: Risk Management

‘Delay Thinking’ Is a Project Success Factor

Often, it is better to spend more time than it is to speed to meet a deadline. Fast is good but not always. When rushing to get something done the probability of causing damage is high.


Delay Thinking

Delay thinking recognizes that there is a delay or lag between an action and its effect. Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline says that “Delays can make you badly overshoot your mark, or they can have a positive effect if you recognize them and work with them.”

Figure 1 below is a diagram that explains the delay phenomena, he gives the example of the delay between the time you adjust the water temperature in the shower and the time the water reaches the desired temperature. If you understand the delay, you will make sure you don’t get doused in cold water or make the mistake of further turning up the hot.

Figure 1: Delayed Results[1]

What Does This Have to Do with Projects?

In both projects and operations, we make and act upon decisions. We set expectations among stakeholders about outcomes. We are expected to fix problems and do it fast.

Faced with problems we may seek quick fixes by applying solutions that worked in the past or in other organizations. We can be pressured into rushing ahead without doing the due diligence of assessing causes, multiple scenarios, and the impact of differences between the current situation and the ones in which a solution worked in the past.

In time bound projects, there is a tendency to overlook likely delays. For example, underestimating the time it takes to perform predecessor tasks when scheduling resources. The result is the cost of resources sitting idle while waiting for the results they need to proceed.

When we take delays into consideration expectations are realistic and problem resolutions end up making things better rather than worse.


Learning Curves and Change Management

For example, when a large organization implemented a system to reduce the effort of field managers by applying AI to automate their ordering process, they failed to recognize the delay caused by a combination of learning curves, manager resistance to a perceived loss of authority and autonomy, and the need to fine-tune the algorithm used to make ordering decisions. The result was avoidable chaos, supply chain disruption, and degraded performance. The new system was rejected.

The outcome would have been a far happier one had the project plan included a robust training process, “marketing,” and a calibration period with an incremental system rollout rather than a “big bang” implementation. All of these are “delays” that on the surface cause the project to run longer. Though more often than not, when looking below the surface these so-called delays save time, effort, money and reduce unnecessary stress.



What might cause failure to include delays in plans?

Everything has a cause and when we discover causes, we can better avoid repeating failures and making poor choices.

One predominant cause of this failure to consider delays is rushing to get a project completed in a certain time frame. The pressure to get your project done by a fixed date may be driven by many things – the whim of a senior stakeholder, funding availability, the need for resources on other planned projects, legal restrictions, seasonal weather conditions, etc.


When a “get it done by” mandate is in play, pressure, and the anxiety it brings leads decision makers to cut corners, perhaps forgetting that spending more time planning can result in exponentially less time during the rest of the project. Pressure and anxiety also lead to applying quick fixes which overlook long term consequences.

Expediency bias operates even when there is no major pressure to hit a deadline. It is the tendency to prefer quick action over taking the time to make sure there is clarity and understanding about short and longer-term results.

During planning, rushing and expediency bias leads to only looking at one scenario instead of a few. Assessing multiple scenarios opens the decision to useful analysis. But this takes time. When rushing, talk about lags or delays is impatiently squelched. The risk of making a poor decision based on limited information is high.




Quick Fixes – Short Term thinking

Another dimension of delay thinking is the recognition that when resolving a problem, while short-term fixes might remove symptoms there is a delay before the nature of longer-term consequences are experienced.

We are often blind to the long-term effects of short-term decisions and actions. When there is a lag between our action and its effect, we are easily driven by the satisfaction of short-term pleasure and immediate gratification.

Take the decision between eating a bowl of ice cream and a salad. If you are like me, the ice cream is far more pleasing than the salad. And, at the end of the day, you’d look and feel the same regardless of your choice. So why not go for the ice cream.


But factor in delay thinking and you get to see that if you repeatedly opt for the ice cream over the salad the delayed longer-term effects start to show – weight gain, digestive issues, increased blood sugar levels, etc.

Looking at the short and long-term effects makes your decision making more effective. You know what you are gaining and giving up when you make your choice. You can opt for ice cream sometimes, but you are more likely to moderate, assuming your goal is good health. You can remove symptoms with a quick fix, but you had better consider the longer term impact and plan for it.



Awareness is the key.


Being aware that delays are normal parts of experience makes it likely that we will consider them when making decisions and planning projects. Knowledge of the specific delays in your project comes from analysis and experience, your own and your institution’s.

Be aware of rushing and expediency bias and the power of spending more time in planning to playout various scenarios, consider delays and delayed effects, and cause removal vs. symptom removal options and their effects.

Think of what happens when you drop a stone into a pond of still water. Be aware that every action you take has a ripple effect and that the ripples appear over time, radiating in all directions.


[1] Senge, Peter, The Fifth Discipline, Doubleday, NY, 1990 p. 90

Best of PMTimes: 7 Tips on How to be a Great Project Manager

Project management may sound easy, but taking up the role of a Project manager requires sword play with the right wit.


Many a times, when the Project Manager is at fault or does not abide to an employee’s needs, the company is bound to lose a valuable resource. A good Project Manager is hard to find, but a great Project Manager? It is harder. Understanding the goals of the company, project deadlines, managing time effectively and being a good boss to employees can be easy if these seven tips are followed:


Project managers tend to get extremely observant and controlling when a project is assigned to their team. It might be because of irrational deadlines, lack of time, underestimating the power of their resource and panicking about proving their position. This leads to constant micromanagement where Project Managers constantly nag or monitor employees and their work, breathing down their shoulders through the entire day or week, until the project is done and dusted. Sometimes, employees are never given an off and might be asked to work during the weekends which would eventually drain them out. A great Project Manager understands that every employee is human enough to have their own time and space to figure out how much they can deliver and how fast they can. Employees should be given their own freedom to work around schedules and plan out how they can deliver before deadlines. Micromanagement only demotivates employees and puts them in a position where they are rendered as incapable of deliveries unless monitored. A great manager avoids micromanagement like the plague and uses it when and wherever necessary.


Many project managers follow agile methodology where different parts of the project that have various dependencies are mapped out and listed in the beginning. With time, priorities change. Re-evaluating priorities in a periodic manner and changing work deliveries is important. Priorities are never the same throughout a project and it takes a great manager to find the loops and holes of it, to deliver projects on time.


Time management is a great manager’s number one priority. Maintaining a balance between being productive during the productive hours at work and allowing employees to have their free time is important. Project managers must make sure that employees get the work done on time, without stressing them out by pressurizing them. Any good resource would work efficiently when the work is handed over to them, without the need of a push. Figuring out the good and the bad egg from the team is crucial. Laying out tasks and targets for employees to meet during each day is a good way to start.





Good communication is good project management any day. The ability to communicate to the stakeholders as well as the team effectively can drive a project to be delivered on time. Giving out broken promises to stakeholders and urging employees to complete their tasks as promised would cause huge problems to the team as well as to the clients. Being an effective communicator between the team and the clients is important.


They say that great project managers understand their employees. Keeping track of how much an employee is able to deliver, how fast they can and what fields and skills they are good at is important. The ability to drive employees to complete tasks they love accomplishing and are good at. Knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses and allotting tasks similar to what they can and cannot do is vital.


Technology is an ever-evolving stream of today and to be knowledgeable in all kinds of software and technology is a challenging task. Being up-to-date on technology and exposing your team to the existence of such, is important. Project management training for employees to be knowledgeable on various fields that are emerging in the current technology-driven world can bring the company a lot of projects and profit.


When there’s a project assigned to you, there will be problems assigned to you as well. These problems can arise at any time of the project. Problems can vary from being related to the employees within the team, health-issues or emergencies that occur mid-way or at the time of delivery, misinterpreting requirements, missing out on SLDC processes, bug issues and problems that are completely unexpected. Being a great problem-solver by understanding what is to be done at such situations is the best trait of a great project manager. A great project manager works towards the success of the company and its products and it is vital to know how to handle unexpected situations in a witty way.


Being a good project manager takes time while being a great project manager takes experience. Using the right kind of skill at the right time and handling organizational problems takes time in understanding what each member of the team is capable of. Believing that your team can perform better at every step of the project is crucial. Preparations for the worst can improve problem-solving abilities.


Understanding the project strategy vision, bringing out the best out of your team, timely delivery of projects, being an effective communicator, solving problems, preparing, disclosing, bargaining and closing projects can go a long way in tuning your project management skills. Looking into administrative details of projects is also an area that can’t be missed out. Project management takes planning, leading, implementing and collaborating.

Any good project manager can become a great project manager any day. Taking a keen interest in your development, the team’s as well as individual development is an added asset. Keep your doors open for employees to put in their thoughts and worries that serve as barriers to meeting deliverables or taking up projects. Delegate tasks and sub-tasks to get work done in a simple and easy way. Finally, a great project manager works with the team and accomplishes their mission.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great someday”.


Published: 2017/12/25

Making the Impossible Possible – Expectations, Loss, and Loss Leaders

It always seems impossible until it’s done.Nelson Mandela


Projects burdened by impossible objectives tend to fail, disappoint, and burnout performers. They are a sign that the decision-making process is broken. To avoid failure, make sure there is a solid understanding of the difference between possible and impossible goals and objectives and a well-thought-out decision-making process.


In the context of project engagements (see my recent article Engagement Management: A Key To Successful Projects), setting impossible objectives is often the result of a poor approval process, inadequate estimates, lack of effective pushback by project management to either an overzealous sales effort or an overly demanding client/sponsor.


Beware of an Over-Zealous Attitude

The tendency to set impossible objectives is strengthened by attitudes like the one expressed by Mandela and this one from Muhammad Ali:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration.”


The ‘can-do’ attitude is powerful and motivating. But, in fact there are some things that are, in fact, impossible. For example, changing the past is impossible, as are completely controlling the future or getting a ten person-day task like setting requirements done in a day by assigning ten full time people to it.

As the Serenity Prayer recognizes, it takes wisdom to know the difference between what is possible and what is not, and the courage to act.


Is It Worth It?

There are objectives that seem impossible but may be possible. A big question for project stakeholders is, what is it worth to find out?

In project management the “wisdom” referred to in the Serenity Prayer needs to be shared among sales, project sponsors, and clients and it needs to be embedded in the engagement management process.

Stretch goals push the edge of performance but achieving them can be costly and have a high probability of failure. Go for it if cost is not a significant constraint, achieving goals is highly rewarding in non-financial terms, and expectations are realistic.


For example, the cost of fighting and winning against the apartheid system in South Africa was not a significant constraint. People were willing to give their lives and livelihoods to win. The reward, freedom, was worth the cost. And expectations, while high, were realistic – people were willing to keep at it as long as necessary and had no idea how long that would be.

But in business and technology projects we have a different dynamic. The sales price, which is made up of costs plus profits, sets up a goal for the project manager and team that, if unmet, costs the organization and the team. The organization loses money, the team is faced with failure, clients and sponsors are disappointed.

In-house projects have a similar dynamic. The sales price is the cost estimate which with expected benefits drives project approval. Cost and schedule overruns and unrealized benefits are costly to the organization and the performance team. Clients and sponsors are disappointed.


A key question is – Is it worth it to attempt to achieve the stretch goals?




Decision Making and Consequences

Portfolio Management’s project approval process is the forum for making the decision to decide if ‘it’s worth it’. There is no problem when the answer comes out of a well thought out analysis of costs, benefits, alternatives, and risks, and expectations are well-managed.


But when the decision is made based on bad estimates and emotion, with a misguided understanding of what is and isn’t possible, there will be hell to pay.


Looking at two situations, considering costs, competition for resources, and benefits, we can see how project approval works.


1. In situation One a contractor organization is selling a project to a client. The sales team works with the client to find a price that the client likes. This comes out of a negotiation within the client’s procurement process. Ideally, the sales team considers input from estimators representing the performance team and comes up with a price that sells and is profitable.

If the sales team does not consult the performance team, the price is likely to be an impossible goal. If the performance team is consulted and says that they can do the job, but their costs would eat into or do away with profit, that’s where the decision makers come in. Their job is easy if the price and costs allow for sufficient profit.

If profit is lower than executives would like or if there is a loss, then the decision makers must decide whether to take on a loss-leader project that will, say, get the company in the door at a new client or keep competitors out of an existing client. They must assess whether this project is worth doing given limited resources and more profitable or critical projects.

If the decision makers decide to approve, they must (but often do not) set expectations with the performance team to let them know they are shooting for a rational target and why the project price is so low.

This scenario is linked to incentives – sales commissions pinned to gross sales price or to profit and bonuses for the performance team. And, of course, schedule – delivery targets, their priority, and time to completion – is a major factor.


2. Scenario Two is where the work will be done by in-house resources. In this situation the dynamic is different. The project price (the cost to the organization) may be set based on a well thought out or faulty cost estimate or based on available budget and a strong desire to do the project.

Instead of profit, decision criteria include benefits. While benefits are realized over years and often far exceed costs, available budget and contention for resources are constraints. A decision is made.

If the performers know they are shooting for a rational target all’s well. When they are driven to meet impossible objectives there are consequences like failure, poor morale, relationship issues, turnover, and burnout.


Going Forward

As always, assess your current situation and track record.

  • Are project overruns frequent?
  • Are estimates chronically inaccurate?
  • Are staff members driven to do the impossible?
  • Do you have a clearly defined well-functioning decision-making process that includes managing the impact on staff of stretch objectives?
  • Who is accountable for project overruns, particularly when realistic project level estimates are ignored, and cost targets are set based on political or sales oriented criteria?

Based on that assessment what do you need to change and how will you change it?


And, of course, do not believe it when someone says, “it’s impossible.” Check the facts, get other opinions, use your intuition, then decide. Push the edge to do the impossible when it is worth it. Make sure expectations are well-managed.



Five Ways Construction Companies Can Avoid “Technical Debt”

This article was cowritten by Lucas Marshall and Robert LaCosse of Milwaukee Tool.


Construction companies know the importance of integrating their systems (e.g., 85.1% of owners viewed mobile integrations as a “very important” or “important” priority in the 2021 ConTech Report). Yet, full-system integration remains an industry challenge – a global KPMG study revealed that a measly 16% of executives surveyed reported their organizations have fully integrated systems and tools.


In early 2023, 40% of SMBs in the construction industry stated they’d be looking to upgrade their software in the next 12 months.

When deploying any software system, you run the risk of accruing technical debta term that commonly fits into the vernacular of software developers and represents the #1 biggest threats according to 69% of business leaders.


An academic study revealed that 75% of technical debt instances originate from clunky legacy software systems. Many construction companies on legacy software systems may find themselves in a catch-22: Addressing the technical debt of their legacy system or facing downtime to deploy and learn a more cloud-friendly, adaptable solution.

In this article, we define what tech debt might look like at a construction company and offer five ways to avoid it or put solutions toward it.


What Is Technical Debt?

In short, technical debt refers to the dependencies one introduces when deploying new software and hardware solutions.

A dependency may be one system not communicating with another, or perhaps an accumulation of software bugs that make a software interface sluggish and hard to use.

Technical debt, like financial debt that can lead a person to bankruptcy if left to accumulate, poses a significant business risk; growing technical debt, that is, refers to the cascading effect that happens when these dependencies, ignored, exponentially propagate and become insurmountable, involving massive operational costs to fully resolve.


Examples of a Construction Company’s Tech Debt

  • Mobile apps not integrating with construction ERPs
  • Single-application heritage systems running on outdated hardware
  • Time needed to learn new software
  • Discovery time needed to perform security risk assessments of new system


Five Ways to Avoid Tech Debt

Now that we’ve established what technical debt may mean to a construction company, here are five ways to avoid tech debt from accumulating:


1. Embrace a Culture of Collaboration over Isolation: Rituals, Governance, and Retrospectives

A retrospective is a classic practice in Agile software development where teams reflect on recently completed work and, through these rituals, the team gets more efficient and collaboration yields greater productivity over time.


Planning Poker

Planning poker is a conversational tool that exists online and physically – it’s a great tool for facilitating critical discussion. It centers on the reality that if you want to avoid technical debt – which can emerge from complexities not commonly understood by all stakeholders – you need to implement a process whereby all stakeholders, or more importantly all disciplines, have the ability to voice what they believe or know to be benefits and threats of any implementation.

“Collaboration” Apps and Systems

A joint-Autodesk/FMI study revealed that construction has some work to do in terms of collaboration:

  • 60% of general contractors see problems with coordination and communication between project team members and issues with the quality of contract documents as the key contributors to decreased labor productivity.
  • 68% of trades point to poor schedule management as the key contributors to decreased labor productivity.
  • 9% of construction industry professionals say that the top reason for miscommunication is unresponsiveness to questions/requests.


Construction companies can address these collaboration pitfalls by: Adopting cloud-based productivity apps and encouraging company-wide usage. Conveniently accessible communication apps like Slack can empower back-office workers as well as those in the field to communicate with each other more seamlessly, while powerful project management apps like Procore can help construction managers oversee full-lifecycle projects onsite. We’ve built our tool management app with workflows in mind – allowing, for example, tool managers to text or email team members from their smartphone contacts list without leaving the app. It’s of course important to stress, though, a collaboration platform, no matter how powerful, can’t empower its users unless they actually commit to using it together! Our advice: Pick an app and integrate it with other teams’ apps and systems (see in our next section about integrations) to avoid information silos.


2. Hire a Dedicated Software Engineer, Technologist, or CTO

A construction technologist is an important, emerging role within an organization that oversees a company’s construction technology program—responsible for researching and piloting advanced technology (see in next section).


True, labor shortages in the construction industry are staggering, though the US construction market is expected to continue to grow. Mass layoffs in the tech industry present a unique opportunity to absorb the tech industry’s displaced software engineering talent to help address the industry’s productivity challenges:


  • Addressing Technical Debt – In lieu of three months downtime to fully port over one system for another, software engineering expertise can guide a company in taking a portion of a larger software ecosystem offline at a time and replacing it with a part, but there are complexities and hairiness to that, which will require nuanced expertise.
  • Integrations – Building connectors between project management and an ERP, connecting specialty design to prefab, BIM and asset management, etc., to limit manual reentry of project information, remove data silos, and better connect the flow of project data between your teams’ various software systems and apps.
  • Open APIs – Open APIs allow software providers to empower your company’s technical team; in the event an integration doesn’t exist, technologists have the tools to build a custom solution in the short-term.




3. Embrace Technology

It may sound counterintuitive—to attack technical obstacles by introducing more technology, especially when 42% didn’t have a budget for IT (according to the same ConTech report). But successful pilot programs and onboarding can empower contractors and business owners to deploy technology in a meaningful, outcomes-driven way:


  • BIM – Building information modeling, the digital tools of trade that architects, engineers, and contractors use to create unified, collaborative, multi-dimensional representations of built environments and infrastructure can mitigate risk and shorten project timelines by 50%, according to a scientific case study.
  • Industrialized Construction is not so much a technology as a complete redefinition of construction processes in favor of “productization” over one-off projects that improves quality, consistency, and value for customers. It takes advantage of multiple approaches, such as:
    • Offsite construction – both prefabrication and modular prefabrication – which moves preassembly of certain components to an offsite, manufacturing-style facility, and which has proven to increase project timeliness by 50% while reducing waste by 20%.
    • 3D Printing – 3D printing (aka: additive manufacturing) offer rapid design freedom and speed of delivery, delivering a 10-house community in China in a single day, for example. Respondents surveyed about their use of 3D printers reported the following benefits they viewed as most important: Ability to create complex geometrical objects, 69%; Value of quick iteration of products, 52%; Mass customization abilities, 41%.
  • Drones – Drones can be used ahead of breaking ground on projects in land surveying just as they can be used to provide real-time project reality capture.
  • Robots – Robots can be used to automate procedural tasks to free skilled trades to tend to tasks that require a higher degree of human intelligence; they can also keep workers out of harm’s way by automating dangerous tasks.
  • Smart Tools – Smart power tools can deliver installations faster and safer, using advanced technology like machine learning to protect operators against dangerous kickback events. Advanced software/hardware interaction can be used to dial in precision settings for application-specific repeatability, utilization data from events performed on tools in the field can be packaged up in a fully customizable reporting suite to provide proof-of-work documentation to customers, building inspectors, and stakeholders.
  • Generative AI – It may be a faux pas in certain circles, but exploring realistic ways in which generative AI may fit into construction workflows (e.g., assisting project managers, inventory managers, construction safety trainers, etc.) is critical as the industry looks to execute on growing backlogs.


4. Lean Construction

Just as agile software seeks to improve quality over time, lean construction is an approach to the business of building things that aims to minimize waste and maximize value for all stakeholders by reducing waste commonly encountered on construction sites such as:


  • Excessive material handling
  • Rework
  • Design errors
  • Conflicts between trades
  • Conflicts between other contractors
  • Ineffective supply chains


5. Digital Twins and IoT

Digital twin technology seeks to mirror real systems and drive smarter, predictive analytics with real-time sensor data through machine learning and artificial intelligence – and it’s helped reduce rework in manufacturing by 15-20%.

Digital twins aggerate data through related IoT sensors that can be used in construction to keep track of tools and equipment in real-time across various jobsites as well as drive safer, smarter installations.

McKinsey some six years ago predicted the rise of IoT devices to empower companies to monitor and repair equipment in real-time through automated alerts for preventive maintenance, inventory management and ordering, quality assessment (i.e., “smart structures”), energy efficiency, and safety.

Today, many of those predictions have come true; with the launch of Apple’s Vision Pro recently, renewed discussion in the construction wearable space, for example, is worth having to enhance safety training.


Bottom Line

The construction industry, strapped for talent (both skilled trades and engineering), is rife with opportunities for technical debt – however, there’s a myriad of tools at a business owner or technologist’s disposal to prevent technical debt from getting out of hand.


We recommend:

  1. Collaboration and ownership through project retrospectives
  2. Hiring a Dedicated Software Engineer, Technologist, or CTO – perhaps displaced talent from the technology sector
  3. Embracing advanced technology
  4. Embracing lean construction principles
  5. Supercharging your data analytics via digital twins and IoT


Robert LaCosse is a User Experience strategist with over 10 years of experience improving user experiences for major companies like Intel and Razorfish. At Milwaukee Tool, he is a leader in the UX Research discipline, responsible for ritualizing user research practices for One-Key software products. He also serves as a UX mentor and adjunct professor of computer science at Clark College in Washington state.

Managing Uncertainty with Risk Management and Communication

“Sticking with … uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos,
learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.”
  ~ Pema Chodron


Spiritual or not, this is the path of the project manager. Accepting uncertainty is a mindset that we want to promote for all stakeholders. It is about accepting and managing change and the uncertainty it brings.


This article is a follow up to my February 2023 article Goals Are NOT Expectations[1]


I’ve experienced more than one organization that refrains from publishing long term plans, cost and revenue expectations, and budgets out of fear that they will be penalized when predictions are not realized. In other settings, project managers are held accountable for missing deadlines and budgets that seemed realistic when they were created and used to justify project approval. Even when changes out of the control of the project manager were the cause of the project’s schedule slippage, budget overrun, or failure to meet benefits expectations.



There is a paradox. Everyone likes certainty, and that like, left unchecked, leads to problems.

It is fine to like certainty but expecting it causes dissatisfied stakeholders and project failure. While we try to approach certainty, we recognize that, with few exceptions, it is unattainable.


The Best Made Plans

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” – Robert Burns

Burns got it right. Schedule and budget as best we can, and the next day there can be change, a sickness, storm, strike, or any random event that disrupts the schedule and causes cost overruns. Even if you are clever enough to build in buffers, they can be blown through.

We know we can be certain of some things that, for example, we can be certain that there will be change, we can’t control everything that affects our projects and that things will not always be how we’d like them to be. However, we can never be certain of staff and resource availability, requirements, deliverables, cash flow, the completion of tasks, inspections, tests, and more.


Since the certainty of a plan is a pipedream, we are left with two choices, don’t plan or manage uncertainty. Given Benjamin Franklin’s statement, “If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail” the first option is not recommended. That leaves us with the need to manage uncertainty.

Doing it means accepting and letting go to manage expectations using risk and communication.


Accepting Reality

The first step is to accept that uncertainty is an unavoidable reality in projects. This acceptance is a mindset change from thinking that everything must come out the way we want it to everything will occur as it does, and we can work with it. Acceptance is the key to the “knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos.”

Acceptance does not mean passivity. With acceptance and confidence in your ability to handle anything that happens, acceptance puts you on a solid platform for success. You relax in the midst of chaos. Until you and your stakeholders accept uncertainty you cannot optimize your performance. Acceptance is what enables you to let go and let your own and your team’s skill and experience take care of business.


Then manage expectations using risk management, and communication, to get the reality of uncertainty across to all stakeholders and have them accept and let go.

Lets look at expectations to see their role in managing uncertainty and the way risk management and communication are keys to managing them.


Managing Expectations

Expectations are beliefs about the way something will come about in the future. When stakeholders have rational expectations, accepting uncertainty, they are more likely to keep calm and carry on, even when faced with chaos. With calm acceptance, the probability of success is high.

It is both the organization’s and project manager’s responsibility to make sure expectations are rational and reasonable. Risk management and communication are the tools for managing expectations.

The bottom-line expectation is to work for the best outcome possible while being ready for anything. It is expected that you as a project manager will plan and work to satisfy stakeholders. When expectations are well managed, stakeholders are more likely to be satisfied. Satisfied stakeholders mean project success.





Communication is the means to achieve rational and realistic expectations.

Communication uses the results of risk management to inform and lead. Communication includes plan presentation and revisions, and continuous candid dialogue in the form of regular progress reporting and informal conversations.

For example, when presenting a plan stress the planned outcome in terms of a range of possibilities with different likelihoods of occurrence. Include statements like “While we are confident that we will meet our sche3dule and budget expectations, we acknowledge that there may be variance. Our risk assessment and plan goes into the details regarding that possible variance. We will regularly assess risks and performance to manage expectations.”


Mindset Training

Mindset training is a form of communication. Its purpose is to enable setting the stage for effective performance. Without mindset training that confronts biases and beliefs about the need for and ability to achieve certainty the project manager’s ability to manage expectations is limited.


Training time is limited. That is why mindset training is best done by embedding it in skills training as well as in regular meetings and presentations. For example, when giving a presentation to senior stakeholders take a few minutes to highlight that plans are predictions, and that they do not guarantee the predicted outcome. That is a great introduction to the part of the presentation that addresses risk. Posters and informal dialogues can help. In project management training include a segment on expectations management and the need to accept and manage uncertainty.


Risk Management

Risk management is the key part of planning that acknowledges and accepts uncertainty and manages expectations. Risk management seeks to identify and avoid the things that get in the way of success, and to promote the things that enable it

We assess risks and plan to remediate them with effective responses. We acknowledge that there are both known and unknown risks. We monitor and adjust throughout the project.

The degree to which risk management is a formal and regularly performed part of planning is a measure of whether uncertainty is accepted in an organization. Producing a plan that has a single, unqualified completion date, expense cap and benefits expectation is a sign that more mindset training and communication is needed.



What do you and your organization need to do to create the mindset that uncertainty is unavoidable?