Project Management

Pit Happens: 7 Ways to Navigate Out of Project Despair

Lonnie Pacelli is an Accenture/Microsoft veteran with four decades of learnings under his belt. He frequently writes and speaks on leadership, project management, work/life balance, and disability inclusion. Reach him at [email protected] and see more at

It was one of my earlier projects as a project manager.

I spent a lot of time planning the work out, calculating the critical path through the project, and getting everything ticked and tied prior to kickoff. The kickoff meeting went well with the exec sponsors. I set high expectations on my ability to deliver. The team was largely silent during the kickoff meeting, letting me do my thing.

The first few weeks in, I reported that we were on schedule and budget, and within scope; we were on our way to a stellar delivery.

At week four, a few of the tasks started slipping. “No problem, we can make it up,” I thought to myself. I reported that we were still on schedule.

The next few weeks saw more slippage, and some team members began expressing concern about our ability to meet dates. I reported that things were still okay, and we were working through a couple of minor issues.

After a couple more weeks, the concerns continued to crescendo, and one of the exec sponsors caught wind that there might be some problems on the project. He set up a meeting with me and some of my leads to deep-dive on what was going on. It was one of my most uncomfortable meetings at that point in my young career. I was the last one in the room to acknowledge there were problems.

The exec sponsor then talked with my manager and told him the project needed more seasoned …

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- Alice Roosevelt Longworth