Author: David Shoemaker I.

(63)   Articles
David Shoemaker is Vice President of Learning Solu

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Training in Project Management and Leadership By David Shoemaker I.

  in Leadership | Published 2011-12-20 19:50:21 | 352 Reads | Unrated


Project managers must face a variety of challenges in their day to day work Project uncertainty is a given, but training in project management can help project managers better face and overcome these difficulties

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Project managers must face a variety of challenges in their day to day work. Project uncertainty is a given, but training in project management can help project managers better face and overcome these difficulties. Training in project management and leadership can make the difference between a project's success or failure. Being effective and making the right decisions are important parts of being a project manager.

There are four major types of project uncertainty that a project manager might face. The first is variation - this type of uncertainty is compounded by the small unc
ertainties associated with each part of a project. If there are five main parts to a project and each has a timeline variation of two weeks around the completion date, that is actually a variation of 10 weeks total for the project. The project manager has to be aware of and deal with all of these uncertainties simultaneously to keep the project on track.

The second type of uncertainty is foreseen uncertainty. Although these uncertainties are foreseeable in that they may happen, the project managers and workers don't know if they actually will. These uncertainties are different from variation - these are more major and may need risk management. One example of foreseen uncertainty can be seen in the pharmaceutical industry. Maybe a drug in development turns out to have side effects; these are foreseen because they happen with most drugs, and a plan needs to be developed for how to deal with them. Training in project management can be helpful to learn how to develop contingency plans.

The third type of uncertainty is unforeseen uncertainty. These are uncertainties that cannot be anticipated in the initial project planning. Those in project management and leadership positions are unable to make contingency plans because they do not expect these uncertainties to occur. This uncertainty is particularly difficult to deal with and can make people become very stressed. It's important for project managers to know how to deal with these situations.

Lastly, the fourth type of uncertainty is called chaos. This happens when the initial project plan is uncertain itself. Chaos is found more in research endeavors (rather than more specific development projects) where the participants don't know exactly what their work will show or what they will do with it at the end of the project.

No single project will have just one type of uncertainty, which is why it is so important that project managers be able to anticipate and deal with all types - variation, foreseen uncertainty, unforeseen uncertainty, and chaos (sometimes called "unknown unknowns" or "unk-unks"). There are different uncertainty profiles that can describe the combinations of uncertainties explained above, such as low predictability (low variance and high chaos) and high predictability (high variance and low chaos). The more a project manager can understand about a project, the better he or she will be able to develop an effective management style. The main way to approach uncertainty is through planning/learning and response, tracking progress/assumptions/unkowns, and meeting target goals (or making new goals based on current findings).

A flexible leader is generally a good project manager. A flexible project manager understands the four uncertainties and knows how to bring a project to success and completion while facing those uncertainties. Training in project management prepares PMs for project management and leadership and can facilitate the development of effective management styles.



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About the Author

David Shoemaker is Vice President of Learning Solutions and Innovation at eCornell. For more information on human resources studies, management development training, or eCornell, please visit