Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts...

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Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts...

Flights of experience in project management youve been working with a company, successfully delivering a number of small projects (short haul destinations).  Theyre happy with your professionalism and capability so decide to keep you to do something larger! (long haul destinations, with potential for connecting flights).

Time passes; as you complete this larger project, with happy stakeholders, issue management and clear communication, youre asked to work on another large project and you happily accept (a new itinerary is planned... with multiple connections).  Midway through this subsequent larger scope, your senior stakeholder is removed and the organisation undergoes radical corporate cultural change.  This is the situation that I found myself in earlier this year (...and the captain announces turbulence).

I found this to be both professionally and emotionally, a challenging situation (time to remove high heels and adopt the brace position).  Ive built up rapport with a wide range of stakeholders and gained positive reputation within the organisation and at senior levels in particular.  This very sudden change precipitated local offices into huge organisational change.  The usual elements appeared almost instantly:

  • Glee those with personal agendas who perceived the change as an answer to heartfelt desire.
  • Terror uncertainty equates to job insecurity
  • Enthusiasm change means opportunity to grow, manoeuvre politically and enhance reputation
  • Sadness loss of a valued, esteemed senior manager who had been a dynamic presence and influence

As a project manager I had to manage my own feelings, behaviours and reactions (personal responsibility for communicating the risks to the passengers including lighted walkways in case of emergency).  Initially needing to contain rumour and discourage gossip; swiftly seeking out some time with new sponsors to establish the position of my two main projects; manage interpersonal communications across my wide stakeholder group.

I chose to seek clarification on whether my projects should move into other patterns holding, cancelling, curtailing, delaying or continuing the projects.  Underneath it all, being a contractor as senior project manager, I also had to consider my personal position with regard to work commitment, employment circumstances and likely impact to my financial position as well as personal reactions.

It took immense discipline to contain my own reactions (apply your own oxygen mask before assisting others), manage expectations of others and ensure that I communicated project content and concerns as accurately and reasonably dispassionately; the latter was a particular stretch for me personally.

The greatest task thus far is to be supportive through expectation management, leading by example and choosing to continue professionally and appropriately (follow instructions appropriately, breathe normally).  This was more readily sustained due to existing good communications and mutual respect already gained.

As the organisation continues to discover its new culture and processes, the need for resilience both internally and externally is ever apparent.  My ability to absorb unexpected change, to manage my teams and reset their expectations has required tremendous energy and significant patience.  Proactive relationship management throughout my tenure has undoubtedly been my greatest asset in this turbulence and Im really glad to have securely fastened my seatbelt through professional and ethical conduct, which is now facilitating a modicum of security as we proceed to a new stable environment.

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Posted by Sheilina on 18th May 2012

About the Author

I've over 30 (humbling) years as an international practicing project manager, consultant, speaker and coach/mentor.

Currently, Teaching Fellow for UCL, School of Management.

Previously delivered multiple IT projects in the Property Industry. I'm a Fellow and RPP accredited by APM, as well as holding PMP from PMI and Master Practitioner in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming).

I'm a past Chief Examiner for Knowledge Examinations for BoK 6ed; which includes Fundamentals, Project Management Qualification, Risk Management and Higher Apprenticeships (HAPM); Deputy Chair of the APM Examinations Panel BoK 5ed and held a volunteer role with Kids Company.

I'm a passionate and committed community builder/sustainer. Always happy to learn, share, discuss and evolve.

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