How Do You Put Out Fires?

02 Apr

When you hear of the word “change” what is your immediate reaction?  For some they may feel concerned, overwhelmed, excited, optimism, dread, anger, nervousness and the list could go on.  Change is normal part of our lives and we cannot predict when we will be faced with change.

As project managers, you will face change often, whether it is team members coming and going, issues during the development/brainstorming, testing, implementation, or affects once the project has gone live.  The key to leading a successful project is how the project manager deals with “putting out fires” as changes will inevitably occur regardless of thousands of prep work and planning that is done. Some helpful hints I have used when faced with project changes are:

1)      Stay Calm: If the project manager expresses stress or fear, then the rest of the team will feel those emotions and be stressed also.  The best tip is to stay as calm as possible, regardless of the situation, so you can assess the status of the situation, as it may end up not being as bad as it sounds.

2)      Evaluate and Assess the Problem: It is important to determine how the project will be affected and who the right person or team is required to fix the issue or change that you are faced with.  Many times the issue is only perceived as a problem, but doesn’t affect the project at all.

3)      Gather the Appropriate People: Once you know the issue, form a task force to work on the problem.  It is important to keep in mind that the more complex the issue is, the smaller the group should be, so you can come up with a resolution.  Remember that some issues may be best resolved by removing yourself (Project Manager) from the small group discussion and let your team work on the issue, but don’t leave the initial meeting of this task force without identifying who is going to be responsible for driving the solution and reporting back to the project team.

4)      Communicate Resolution to Team: Once a solution is determined, communication is key to any project plan and when a problem arises, it’s even more critical that the lines of communication be open.  Make sure all team members and stakeholders understand the problem, the solution, and the affect(s) on the project plan.

Image Credit


Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Project Manager Tips


4 responses to “How Do You Put Out Fires?

  1. Matt Ulinski

    April 5, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks, Lisa. I think its important to be able to humble yourself and ask for help sometimes. Everyone appreciates a manger that always has a solution but the human element of requesting input is just as good for credibility. Occasionally my manager says “I’m not sure, what do you think?” and its huge in building a loyal team.

    • Lisa Drake

      April 6, 2011 at 8:36 am

      Thank you Matt for your insightful comment. I agree, as it is good to be able to ask for help, especially if they have personal experience that can help you avoid mistakes from that have happened in the past.

  2. Bret Simmons

    April 6, 2011 at 7:29 am

    This is very good content. More like this!

    • Lisa Drake

      April 6, 2011 at 8:23 am

      Thank you Bret! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.


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