Project Practitioners > The Role of Chance In Project Management

The Role of Chance In Project Management

By ProjectConnections Staff

“Project management is the art of creating the illusion that any outcome is the result of a series of predetermined, deliberate acts when, in fact, it was dumb luck.”

                                                                                                                Harold Kerzner

While there is a grain of truth to this observation, I'm not sure that I totally agree with Mr. Kerzner on the fact that project outcomes (bad OR good) are due to "dumb luck".  It's a somewhat fatalistic view which seems to imply that planning is a futile activity and on that point, I couldn't disagree more. That said, I also think it's naive to think that we can control everything in our projects through detailed planning.

Chance events, both good and bad, are a fact of life and there's no way to completely eliminate them from the equation. They may take the form of a chance encounter with a key stakeholder, unexpected test results or a lucky break just when you need one, but if there's one thing you can count on with absolute certainty, it's that chance will always be a factor in our undertakings and our ability to predict and/or control it can be frustratingly limited.

What to do about it?  First, acknowledge and embrace its immutable existence instead of fighting it or denying it. This may even sound counterintuitive but I'm recommending you plan for it as best you can even though you may not know exactly when or how it will play a role. Second, cultivate an attitude of flexibility and adaptability - an ability to think on your feet and a commitment to course-correct as needed so that you deal with negative chance events more effectively (since you expected them, right?) and can be opportunistic regarding positive chance events.

Finally, use the plethora of proven tools available to us in the areas of planning, risk identification and risk mitigation wisely and actively cultivate a risk-aware mindset within yourself and your team. We may not be able to totally control project outcomes but we can certainly take direct action to tilt the odds in our favor.

Related Articles: - Be a paranoid bulldog and be proud of it. - How to make a comprehensive list of what could possibly go wrong with your project. - Why Schedules Are Always Late and What to Do About It – Timeline Risk Analysis for Predictable Project Schedules

Related Templates: - Drafting a risk list can be a daunting proposition. This risk checklist prompts your team to consider common risks across a wide variety of categories, to reduce the odds of missing one of those dreaded "unknown-unknowns." - Risk Assessment tables used during the early project selection process for documenting product risks, as well as several more detailed risk assessment categories for projects moving into full-blown planning.


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