Oh, Chicken Little.  When you run around screaming, “The sky is falling!” we nod and chuckle to ourselves at how silly you look.  Because we all secretly know the sky isn’t falling.  That “piece of sky” was just an acorn.  We feel safe and secure in the knowledge that we ourselves would never overact like you, Chicken Little.

Except when it comes to project management.

People that work on a project generally specialize in an area – programming, marketing, event coordination, etc.  It is amazing to me how one small set-back in a project can send one of these specialists reeling to the project manager, hands flailing, yelling loudly that the project is doomed.  “Can you believe that we’re not getting resource A until next week!” she exclaims.  “That means I can’t do task B until next week, which pushes back resource C, and then we’ll miss our deadline!  The project is doomed!”

Rarely, when I’ve been faced with these situations, has the project actually been doomed.  There may be compromises and changes to the schedules, yes.  But doomed?  That only happens when someone on the team (either a stakeholder or specialist) insists that things must be done “a certain way” and refuses to budge on a small issue in the interest of the whole.

More irritating to me is when the boss – whether that be a project manager or someone else in charge – actually believes that the sky is falling.  He reads one panicked email or listens to one impassioned speech and blammo!  Suddenly the whole project takes a turn because one person is screaming the sky is falling.  Never mind talking to the engineer who doesn’t think the sky is falling.  Or the guy with a solution to the problem.  The loud, hands-flailing person tends to win more often than not.

So for everyone out there that laughs at Chicken Little, I urge you to take a step back and look at your recent work decisions.  When is the last time you heard a “sky is falling” speech?  I would bet money it’s been within the month.  And how did you react?  Did you follow Chicken Little’s panicked cries?  Or did you take a step back and see what actually fell from the sky?  If it’s just an acorn, then why did the entire team just get derailed and the entire project scope revisited?

-Deborah Fike

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