Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty

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.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

With ProjectManagement.com’s recent monthly theme on new practitioners, I decided to think back to my early days as a project manager (and let me tell you, that was a long way back) and consider what my biggest personal challenge was. There were a lot of candidates, but each of them was something that other people helped me out with—and I really wanted to try and focus on something I had to overcome.

After a while, it came to me: The one thing that it really took me a while to get used to—and where I felt that no one was able to help—was in dealing with the uncertainty. Before I became a project manager, I had always dealt in things that were certain. The early years of my career were in various aspects of the banking industry, where things were pretty exact.

To shift to project management (where the answer to pretty much any question could easily be “it depends”) required a major mental shift. It’s somewhat ironic: I identified something that I had to figure out on my own because no one was able to help me, and now I’m going to offer advice on how to overcome that very thing.

Project management is uncertain
The first mental hurdle I had to overcome was accepting that uncertainty was a natural part of project management. I spent a lot of time trying to understand how I could eliminate or reduce the uncertainty I was …

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"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him."

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