No one is perfect. A project manager typically does the best
job he or she can given the information that is available at the time. However,
project managers make mistakes sometimes. This could be a mistake in
communication, in estimation, or in understanding the project deliverables,
etc. It would have to be a fairly large mistake to be classified as a formal
issue, but large mistakes happen all the time.
Issues management is normally a cold and logical process,
involving problem identification and resolution techniques. However, these
specific types of issues can be especially difficult to resolve since the
project manager may feel some defensiveness (and perhaps embarrassment) for
having caused the problem to begin with. If this happens to you while managing
a project, use the following steps to deal with it effectively.
1. Own the problem
You must first recognize the problem and own up to the fact
that you caused it. If you caused the problem but try to blame it on others,
you will probably find that resolving the problem is much more painful to you.
If you caused the problem, or if you were partially at fault, be mature and
honest enough to own it.
2. Communicate openly
You may be surprised how liberating it can be to just come
right out and say that you blew it! I went to a meeting many years ago where
the participants were ready to pound on a project manager because of a major problem
that he caused. However, the first thing the project manager did when the
meeting opened was to admit the mistake and take total responsibility. The rest
of the attendees no longer felt like they needed to blame the project manager
for all the problems–he had already admitted it! The team could then skip the
process of assigning the blame and could move quickly into resolving the
3. Resolve the problem coolly and calmly
You have the personally painful part out of the way. Now
look for alternatives and resolve the problem using your normal issues
management techniques. Don’t get caught back up in the personal pain by acting
defensive or by looking for ways that you can save face. Given the mistake
made, look for the best resolution for your project.
4. Learn from the mistake
Generally, each mistake you make can be turned into a
learning experience. You can put better processes in place if that is
appropriate. Or you can apply the learning personally and change your
management processes (maybe even slightly) so that this type of problem does
not occur again.
If you handle problems like this you will generally find
that people give you the benefit of the doubt, and, in fact, many will even
admire you for the way you address these personal challenges.