Project Management

The unexpected situations during a project


Titanic has always come to mind as an image of perfection. The project responsible for the construction of the biggest and the most robust steamer in the world received a lot of attention and admiration as an outstanding achievement. However, all superlatives have sunk with the ship during its first voyage on 14th of April, 1912. The unexpected, collision with an iceberg, actually could have been foreseen and escaped, yet it was highly possibly considered as less probable given the huge mass and the solid structure of the ship. Eventually, it turned out that all necessary resources to cope with such crisis had not been enough, which had considerably worsened the consequences of the surprising event.

If we take the Titanic example as a base, a project could experience various difficulties because of different reasons throughout its life cycle. Generally, each and every project has a Risk Analysis in order to cope with all difficulties, but by definition, this risk takes into account only predictable situations. According to Liz Lee-Kelley, the literature refers to unexpected situations as such of small probability but of a significant impact. The normative planning management relying on a Risk Analysis, suggests that it is possible to plan in advance every uncertainty. However, judging by experience, the knowledge that we have at the beginning of a project is never complete because we are not aware how exactly the project will pan out, and thus we can only make assumptions. In other words, it is possible that some unexpected situations happen.

There are solutions which address the before mentioned issues. They take advantage of internal and external sources of expertise by relying on intensive communications as well as on formal and informal practices. These practices enclose mainly negotiations with the client(s), with the stakeholders and the sponsor(s) of the project and generally aim to plan over and to reorganize the execution of the project by applying changes to its timetable, accumulating extra costs, etc.

The more a project is big and is complex, the bigger the chance to have cost overrun exists. And the bigger this chance is, the more probable that political maneuvers happen exists. Actually, no matter the project and its size, political games exist during all of the phases of its life cycle. They are an inevitable part of a project and it’s of high interest to anyone implicated in the project to be able to analyse the current situation and take rational actions based on his/hers analysis. More, regarding political games can be found in the next article.