Lava Lessons in Project Management


tactical while she continued attending to the strategic big picture. Managing both is important. We needed to make the trip safely (tactical) and get there and back successfully (strategic) without spending the night in the lava field-a deal breaker for this particular project.

Anyone who has delivered bad news to a sponsor will recognize that my initial reaction of denial when confronted with reality is common. I was extremely disappointed and it took a little time for me to reconcile what I wanted (see lava) and the new information about what it would cost (sleeping in the lava field without provisions). Mrs. Hall is an experienced project manager who recognized the pattern and was patient with me-giving me time to consider the implications of her reasoning. I love and trust her, so it didn't take me too long to come around to the unpleasant truth. In the face of my denial, less experienced project managers might choose to become belligerent and argue-which just slows things down and can damage relationships, or become placating and allow themselves to be talked out of their position by a desperate sponsor-to everyone's future dismay. Good project managers try to deliver timely and accurate information and give their sponsors a little space to deal with their disappointment and return to rational thinking. In the end, I wasn't happy about turning around, but we didn't end up sleeping in the lava fields either.

About the author

Payson Hall's picture Payson Hall

Payson Hall is a consulting project manager for Catalysis Group, Inc. in Sacramento, California. Payson consults on project management issues and teaches project management. Email Payson at Follow him on twitter at @paysonhall.

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