Dealing With the Loneliness of Project Management

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

One of the first projects I led was an industry-wide shift to an electronic processing platform. I was working for one of the organizations that was going to be using this new platform, and the work involved the implementation of a piece of vendor software and the integration of that software with the electronic platform.

There were a lot of variables and a lot of places where things could go wrong. And on the first day of testing the end-to-end communications between us and the central platform through the vendor software, they all did go wrong! In the space of three hours, we only managed to log on once—for about two minutes.

I had never felt so lonely. No one on the team was happy, everyone was stressed and we didn’t know if the issues were with us, the software vendor or the industry platform. The sponsor was looking for an update and the team was looking for reassurances. I had no idea what to say or what to do.

That was more than 20 years ago, but I still remember exactly how I felt—helpless, hopeless and completely without direction. All I wanted was someone to reassure me that things were going to be okay, but not only did I not have anyone around to do that, everyone else on the project was expecting me to provide them with the same reassurances.

I did what I thought was best—I lied. I told everyone that I was confident everything …

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"Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious and immature."

- Tom Robbins