Chapter 11. What to do when things go wrong

No matter what you do, how hard you work, or who you work with, things will still go wrong. The best team in the world, with the best leaders, workers, morale, and resources, will still find themselves in difficult situations. The only way to completely avoid difficult situations is to do nothing of importance or to consistently put yourself in situations, and on projects, where you are safe from all forms of risk—two things that rarely contribute to success.

“All successful projects are simply a long series of adversities that must be overcome. Far from it being unusual to face adversity, it is normal, and our business is to overcome it. The real test is not when we are successful when there is no adversary, but when there is and we triumph.”

—William A. Cohen

For these reasons, good PMs must be prepared to deal with difficult situations. It takes a certain kind of wisdom to realize that when bad things happen, they happen. Nothing can be done to change them after the fact. Instead, how the team responds to adversity may be a larger factor in project success than the team’s ability to avoid adversity in the first place. Both are important, but resiliency and recovery ability are the attributes that make dealing with the unexpected possible. Without them, a perfect team and perfect plan can spiral out of control with just a nudge in the wrong direction.

This chapter will provide three things: a rough guide (or first-aid kit) for ...

Get Making Things Happen now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.