Stress and Project Management
Stress is a natural biological response to perceived danger or threat. Our biological response is typically fight or flight. This makes sense because to understand that you are threatened and to take steps to reduce this threat is basic to survival.
What does this mean to your execution of a project? One of the things that we know is that increase stress reduces creativity. When we feel threatened, blood flows from the creative parts of our brain to the parts of our brain that focus on our physical survival. The adrenaline increases, blood flows from our stomach in our brain to our muscles. This is one of the reasons that we need to go for a run or ride our bikes after a stressful day. This exercise tends to neutralize the effects of the adrenaline and stress of the day. So stress has the impact of reducing our ability to respond creatively to problem.
As a project manager seeks to understand his project during the initiation phase, one of the things to explore is the stress level on the project. So how do we evaluate the stress level of a project? One of the ways to look at project stress is to understand the comfort zone. The comfort zone represents the area where we have the knowledge, skills and abilities to meet the requirements.
For example, if the project schedule indicates the project needs to be complete within two years and the preliminary estimate to complete the project is two and half years, then we created stress. If the project team truly perceives that they have insufficient time to complete all the necessary activities, then there will be a degree of stress. The level of stress will depend on the perceived consequences of not meeting the schedule and the perceived ability to develop an approach to either change the schedule requirements or accelerate the pace of the project to meet the requirements.
In a similar example, the project team does not believe they can perform the project within the allocated cost, then the team stress will increase. This can have a cumulative effect. The combined effect of an unrealistic schedule and budget will be greater than either one by itself. There are number of different aspects of your project making stress. There can be organizational issues, cultural issues, technological issues, clarity scope among their number of different issues that can impact the stress level in the project.
We have a number of methods for reducing stress in a project management tool box. For example, as we explore options for reducing the time it takes to complete the project we can the crashing the project schedule, executed activities in parallel other than sequence and decelerating procurement activities as if you the tools available. This is also true for many of the areas that carry stress on the project.
This project manager’s protest is to first understand the stress on your project and then develop an appropriate execution approach that will address the stress and maximize project performance. Sounds simple? Probably not, but this is what makes our job so interesting.