Project Management

Navigate Any Project Management Situation By Adapting Situational Awareness

Estimated reading time: 10 minute(s)

Navigate Any Project  Management Situation By Adapting Situational Awareness

Navigate Any Project Management Situation By Adapting Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness for project managers

Have you ever managed a project that just couldn’t get off the ground? You followed all the project management steps, but somehow things still went wrong. In many cases, the problem isn’t that you didn’t manage the project correctly – it’s that the situation called for a different approach.

If you want to navigate project management difficulty, you need to have a different mindset. You need to utilize an adaptable framework to address your unique situation. With this type of mindset, you can adapt your project management style to fit the circumstance, and increase your chances of success.

What you really need is situational awareness, which you can only acquire through expertise and experience. This means not only being able to plan for your project, but also situationally adapting on-the fly if something changes unexpectedly – which it often will.

In this article you will learn :

  • The difference between classical project management and situational project management.
  • What situational awareness is.
  • The mindset pitfalls of project management.
  • How to develop situational awareness for your projects.
  • 4 situational lenses to try on.
  • 3 factors to consider when determining whether a situation is too difficult to change.

Classical project management VS Situational project management

Classical project management VS Situational project management.

When most people think of project management, they often think of the classic waterfall model. This approach breaks down a project into distinct phases, with each phase depending on the successful completion of the previous one.

However, this approach doesn’t work well in situations where the environment is constantly changing. In these cases, you need to be able to adapt your plans on the fly and respond to changes as they happen. This is what situational project management is all about.

Situational project management is a style of project management that takes into account the fact that some situations are too difficult to change. It focuses on being able to adapt your plans on the fly and respond to changes as they happen.

What is Situational Awareness?

Situational awareness is the key to success in many project management scenarios. It’s the ability to see what’s happening around you and understand how it will impact your project.

The problem is that many people, when they encounter a new situation, tend to rely on the knowledge they already have. They try to apply the same best practices they’ve used in the past, even when those practices may be inappropriate for the new situation. This can lead to disaster.

For example, imagine you’re a project manager who’s been asked to oversee investment planning for a new product launch. You’ve done this before, so you’re confident in your ability to do it again. But the situation is different this time. The product is riskier, the market is more volatile, and the budget is tighter. If you don’t take these factors into account, your project is likely to fail.

To be successful, you need to be able to see the world through different lenses and understand how each situation is unique. You can’t rely on best practices alone. You need to be able to adapt your approach to fit the specific circumstances of each project.

Pitfall mindsets

Pitfall mindsets

There are four common pitfalls that project managers fall into when they’re trying to adapt to a new situation:

  1. Over-reliance on best practices: As we’ve seen, best practices can be helpful, but they’re not always appropriate for every situation. If you’re too focused on following best practices, you may miss important details that could make or break your project.
  2. Over-reliance on previous experience: Just because you’ve done something before doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it again. Every situation is different, and you need to be open to new ideas and approaches.
  3. Over-reliance on expert opinion: It’s important to get input from experts, but you shouldn’t blindly follow their advice. Experts can be wrong, and you need to be able to make your own decisions based on the specific circumstances of your project.
  4. Over-reliance on data: Data is important, but it’s not the only factor you should consider when making decisions. You also need to take into account the human element of your project.

Beware of these pitfalls, and make sure you’re able to see each situation for what it is, rather than trying to force it into a pre-existing framework.

velop situational awareness

How to develop situational awareness

Many project managers have a hard time adapting to new situations because they’re too focused on the past. They keep trying to apply the same old methods, even when those methods are no longer effective.

You need to be able to see each situation for what it is and adapt your management style accordingly. Some people are naturally more aware of their surroundings than others. But even if you’re not, there are ways to improve your situational awareness.

The first step is to create what I call “situational lenses.” These are mental models that you can use to see the world around you in a new way. To create a situational lens, you need to step outside of your own point of view and look at the situation from another perspective.

For example, imagine that you’re managing a project to build a new bridge. You’ve been told by your boss that the project must be completed within two years.

You’ve done your best to plan and prepare, but halfway through the project, you realize that the timeline is impossible. The ground is too unstable to support the weight of the bridge, and the river is too deep to cross without a bridge.

You can’t change the situation, so you need to change your mindset. Instead of trying to force the project to fit into the two-year timeline, you need to accept that it will take longer.

This doesn’t mean that you should give up and do nothing, though you might. It just means that you need to adjust your expectations and find a way to work within the new reality.

The same principle applies to any situation that you encounter. If you can’t change the situation, you need to change your perspective.

Situational Lenses

4 Situational Lenses To Consider…

Project management is like driving a car. You need to be aware of what’s happening around you in order to get to your destination safely. The four situational lenses can help make you more aware of the situation you are in. Just as a driver uses a rear-view mirror, side mirrors, and windshield to see what’s behind, around, and in front of the car, project managers use the four lenses to see what’s happening in the project environment.

The lenses are: possibility, probability, constraint, and oppurtunity. By using all four lenses, project managers can get a clearer picture of the situation and make better decisions.

Let’s look at each lens in more detail:

1. Possibility Lens

When you’re faced with a difficult situation, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do. But if you look at the situation through the lens of possibility, you’ll see that there are always options.

For example, imagine that you’re managing a project to build a new factory. The site is in a remote location, and the only way to get there is by plane. But halfway through the project, the only airport in the area is closed due to a volcanic eruption.

At first, it might seem like there’s nothing you can do. But if you look at the situation through the lens of possibility, you’ll see that there are always options. You could fly into a nearby airport and take a bus or a train to the factory site. Or you could charter a private plane.

The key is to keep looking for options until you find one that works.

2. Probability Lens

When you’re facing a difficult situation, it’s easy to feel like the odds are against you. But if you look at the situation through the lens of probability, you’ll see that there’s always a chance that things will work out in your favor.

For example, imagine that you’re managing a project to launch a new product. The product is very complex, and the launch date is fast approaching. You’ve done everything you can to prepare, but you’re not sure if the product will be ready in time.

At first, it might seem like the odds are against you. But if you look at the situation through the lens of probability, you’ll see that there’s always a chance that things will work out. The product might be ready in time, or you might find a way to launch it without all the features.

The key is to stay positive and keep working towards your goal.

Constraint's Lens

3. Constraint’s Lens

When you’re faced with a difficult situation, it’s easy to feel like you’re being held back by your limitations. But if you look at the situation through the lens of constraints, you’ll see that your limitations can actually be a source of strength.

For example, imagine that you’re managing a project to develop a new software application. The deadline is very tight, and you’re not sure if you have enough time to test the software properly.

At first, it might seem like you’re being held back by your timeline. But if you look at the situation through the lens of constraints, you’ll see that your timeline can actually be a source of strength. It will force you to focus on the most important aspects of the software and make sure that they’re working properly.

The key is to use your limitations to your advantage.

4. Opportunity Lens

When you’re faced with a difficult situation, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out on something better. But if you look at the situation through the lens of opportunity, you’ll see that there’s always a chance to turn the situation into a positive.

For example, imagine that you’re managing a project to launch a new product. The product is very complex, and the launch date is fast approaching. You’ve done everything you can to prepare, but you’re not sure if the product will be ready in time.

At first, it might seem like you’re missing out on something better. But if you look at the situation through the lens of opportunity, you’ll see that there’s always a chance to turn the situation into a positive. You could use the launch as an opportunity to learn more about the product and how it works. Or you could use it as an opportunity to build buzz for the product before it’s released.

actors to consider in situational project management

3 Key factors to consider in situational project management:

There are 3 key factors to consider when determining whether a situation is too difficult to change are:

The degree of uncertainty

When there is a great deal of uncertainty, it can be difficult to make decisions because you don’t know what will happen.

For example, lets say you hired out an ads agency to help with a product launch. The agency guaranteed results, but 3 months into the campaign and you’re not seeing any improvement in sales. It would be difficult to make a decision to continue working with the agency or not because of the uncertainty of the situation.

Maybe the ads are performing bad because of the time of year, and if you give it a few more months, sales will improve. Or maybe the ads are just bad and no matter how long you wait, they’re not going to work.

The key is to try to reduce the uncertainty by gathering as much information as possible. This way you can make a more informed decision. But it’s possible that if the degree of uncertainty is too high, it might not be worth trying to change the situation.

The degree of complexity

When a situation is complex, it can be difficult to understand all the different factors that are at play.

For example, lets say you’re managing a project that has many product launches. Each product launch has a different team, budget, and timeline. It would be difficult to understand how each factor is affecting the other factors.

The key is to try to simplify the situation by breaking it down into smaller pieces. This way you can understand each piece better and see how they all fit together.

If you can’t simplify the situation, then you might need to either get more information or accept that you might not be able to understand everything.

The degree of risk

When there is a lot at stake, it can be difficult to make decisions because you don’t want to make the wrong decision.

Let’s say you’re managing a construction project and the budget is very tight. If you make a mistake, it could cost the company millions of dollars.

In this situation, you might want to get more information or take a more conservative approach. The key is to try to balance the risk with the potential reward.

If the potential reward is high and the risk is low, then it might be worth taking a chance. But if the risk is high and the potential reward is low, then it might not be worth it.

These are three key factors to consider when determining whether a situation is too difficult to change. When you’re faced with a difficult situation, it’s important to evaluate the degree of uncertainty, complexity, and risk. If you can’t reduce the uncertainty, simplify the complexity, or lower the risk, then it might not be worth trying to change the situation.

Situation based project management

Bringing it all together

Situational awareness in project management is all about making the best decision given the circumstances. Sometimes that means accepting that a situation can’t be changed. But other times, it means taking a chance and trying to change a difficult situation. The key is to weigh the degree of uncertainty, complexity, and risk against the potential reward. Only you can decide whether it’s worth it or not.

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