The #1 Project Management Tip: Stay in the Solution

Recently, I was asked: what’s the number one tip I’d share with a project manager newly embarking on their career?

I put some thought to all the areas of project management and realized there are lots of tips to share with someone new:

  • Make sure you drive your project
  • Stay on top of your schedule
  • Keep a close eye on scope and don’t let it creep
  • Be highly organized

Those tips are important, but there is something bigger — something deeper that really separates a project manager from the rest, as he or she grows.

My #1 project management tip — one that can be applied at any point in the project — is to stay in the solution.

Whether the project is veering off the rails; a deadline is missed; or scope starts creeping  — the best thing a project manager can do is remain calm and stay in the solution. Every project will face some issue, be it big or small. And the most helpful thing for both the team and project is getting to a solution as soon as possible.

However, it’s not always easy to focus on the solution. Critical moments often create panic and the desire to blame, or an inclination to freeze in fear of responsibility. But as the project manager, deftly maneuvering out of the problem and moving towards the solution is your job.

And staying in the solution doesn’t end when you’ve moved past the problem. Once the issue has been course-corrected and things are back on track, the savvy project manager evaluates what happened, puts the pieces back in order and prepares themselves to prevent the situation from happening again.

Learning to stay in the solution helps me identify the next, best step. One step leads to another, and before you know it you are close to a resolution without much wasted time. It’s a pragmatic way to approach a situation that is often daunting and unclear. Although this is a practical strategy, it is reminiscent of the Rudyard Kipling poem “If-“ — which was written as a form of paternal advice.

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;


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