Project Management

Getting a Grip on Chaos, Part 2: 9 Core Practices for Leading an Extreme Project

Doug is the author of the landmark book, Extreme Project Management®: Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility. He works with clients who undertake projects in very demanding environments: those settings that feature high speed, high change, high unpredictability and high stress. Doug has lived in the trenches—from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Beijing, China—with over 275 project teams with budgets that ranged from $25,000 to over $25 million. He is one of the founders of the Agile Leadership Network, an organization dedicated to connecting, developing and supporting great project leaders. He is known for his hard-hitting and humorous keynote speeches that address vital issues facing today’s project-based organizations. You can visit Doug at

In today’s increasingly dynamic project world, more and more project managers are finding themselves riding an extreme project--a venture characterized by high speed, high change, high complexity and high stress. What does it take to succeed?


In Part 1 of this two-part series, I pointed out that exteme projects live in the chaordic zone, which is the space between order and unbounded chaos. Here, the project manager is a navigator and facilitator of disorder. To succeed in the chaordic zone requires a change-tolerant worldview that I call the quantum or leader’s mindset. This is in contrast to the Newtonian or stabilizer (read “manager”) mindset. Which is your dominant mindset? To find out, scroll down to see Table 1 in Part 1.

The leadership model presented here combines the quantum mindset with nine leadership practices that have emerged out of my work with close to 275 project teams.

The 9 Leadership Practices
These nine leadership practices are not to be taken as the be-all and end-all. Rather, adapt them and build on them to reflect your own leadership style and years of experience. Also, the practices are not linear; that is, they overlap in places and reinforce each other.

1. Lead Yourself
Leader, lead thyself. I have a saying that goes, “Leadership by example is worth 1000 commands.” Here then are hallmarks of …

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