Piggybacking on my last blog post on why project management isn’t fire fighting, today I tackle the idea of patience.  Patience is often said to be a virtue, but unfortunately, this concept doesn’t often translate into our professional lives.  Stakeholders want deadlines moved up two weeks, co-workers want to resolve their problems today, and we want the project completed yesterday.

Despite our tendency to want things now, have you ever noticed how a little patience might have benefited your project?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent a frantic email to a teammate, only to re-open my inbox and notice that the teammate has already solved my problem (making me feel foolish for using “sky is falling” tactics).  Or how, at the end of the day when I’m tired, nothing seems to go right, but taking a break overnight and coming back to the same problem in the morning and snap!  Problem solved with one quick phone call.

Patience does have a role in project management.  Here are some situations where you might consider patience over action:

  1. Whenever a problem seems overblown. Nine times out of ten, if you feel someone on your team is exaggerating a problem, they probably are.  See if the problem will resolve itself before going into super “fix-it” mode.
  2. Whenever a teammate is upset for non-project related reasons. Likewise, if you know your teammate is having a bad day for personal or professional reasons, you may want to see if the problem resolves itself when that person is in a better state of mind.
  3. Whenever you’re in a bad state of mind. Let’s face it: we get riled up once in a while too.  If I find myself being irritated by normally fine stimuli, I know I’m in a bad spot and try not to make many high level decisions until I can get back to my normal calm, rational self.
  4. Whenever something else has a higher priority. It would be great if we could tackle all areas of our projects with equal vigor, but in order to keep your sanity, you must prioritize.  It’s okay to wait on one problem if a bigger problem is taking up your team’s time.
  5. Whenever you’re about to jump into any “sky is falling” scenario. From personal experience, I’ve discovered that most “sky is falling” scenarios will resolve themselves.  They are usually elevated because of one of the previous scenarios above.  Unless you feel like it’s an emergency, it’s often worth your time to sit on it.

Obviously, these are just guidelines and may not fit your situation, but I’d be interested to hear your stories about the art of patience and project management.

-Deborah Fike

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