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From Chaos to Stability: Managing Project Roadblocks and Performance Issues

Ratings are encouraged and provide useful feedback to the author.

How many times have YOU been caught with your PMBOK down when it comes to getting and staying in front of project problems? Are you managing the firm’s investments (projects) with the greatest of care on behalf of the key stakeholders? Are you prepared for those “tough” questions from the customer or sponsor? If you’re like me, you’ve had a few stumbles in front of the boss (and the bosses boss). You’re likely familiar with that dreaded, stomach-sinking feeling of having to say, “I don’t know”, when asked why a project is outside of its performance thresholds. Well, fear no longer. Read on and learn from my mistakes!

The following list is a high level plan for managing through project performance (and other) issues during all steps of the Project lifecycle.  As quick background, anticipating questions from the executive team, then proactively addressing those questions, can greatly improve the perception others have of your abilities by communicating a ‘reassuring’ message upward.  A spillover benefit of this process is that we gain a more complete understanding of performance issues as they occur.  Look to identify any opportunities that the issues may present too; there is oftentimes good news hidden in the chaos (e.g., reduced risk, reduced costs, increased savings, can we return resources back to the pool temporarily?, etc.).

If you want to want to stay WAY out in front of key issues, risks, AND stakeholders, the recommended Variance Management approach I recommend is to get your project team together FAST and do the following:

  1. Define the variance (basic description)
  2. Define the impact to the project
  3. Define what caused the variance (don’t get personal; just understand the ‘real’ root cause)
  4. Create a ‘realistic’ plan to correct the variance
  5. Define how long the correction activities will take to fully implement/take effect
  6. Define the impact to other projects during this correction phase
  7. Calculate (estimate) how project Budget and ROI will be impacted
  8. Calculate (estimate) how the project Schedule will be impacted
  9. Carefully define the positives.  Can we give back some of the resource pool during this correction phase? Can we do some additional needed research?

As you comment on this post, consider (and share) what positives you’ve encountered while dealing with bumps in the road.


This blog has been expanded into a published article for the ESI Horizons monthly newsletter:


  1. 2010/08/12 at 07:12

    Hmm… Nice article. Interesting opinion. I hear about ‘Variance Management’ at first time in this key.

    • 2010/08/25 at 15:14

      Thanks for your feedback. I’m pretty famous for developing new vocabulary around PM.

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