Medecins Sans Frontieres Doctors Without Borders

Join the Community

Project Manager

Australia's online resource for project management professionals

Keep calm and manage the project

Communicate non-emotively

It is widely agreed that communication comprises 90% of project management. We believe how communications are delivered, the medium, tone, and expression, is just as, if not more crucial than what is being communicated. When focusing your team and stakeholders, to remain within the eye of the storm, we believe it’s best to follow some key principles which we summarise below:

  • Deal with facts, not opinions.
  • Summarise the detail for appropriate levels of management.
  • Keep it timely, accurate and of a high quality.
  • Follow a pattern – get people accustomed to your updates.
  • Present program/project impacts and alternatives to key stakeholders, not just ‘here are the issues’.
  • Don’t focus on blame if things go wrong, focus on solutions, that is, the options analysed and the recommendation.

At all times, remain calm. If you as the leader of the team begin to waver or fall apart, it will have a ripple effect throughout your team. Furthermore, your stakeholders and customers will continue to believe in the team’s success if confidence permeates team communications. Let people vent their emotions when necessary and when appropriate and in the right environment: undue negativity should be controlled. Allowing time for venting may serve no other purpose but to reduce the pressure or stress proportionally, but it will be appreciated later.

Focus on the key milestone dates

‘Keep the eye on the prize’ and remember that the agreed benefits are the reasons your program or project exists. Continue to drive to the next milestone date. Getting there will increase everyone’s confidence and you can then do an impact analysis on the changes from baseline.

80/20 decision making

Don’t wait on all facts to make an informed decision. When you have sufficient information, act upon it. Yes, it’s a bit of a gamble but delaying action can also have the same negative impact. This is where experience, instinct, and ‘gut’ feel come into play.

However things turn out in the end, it was the right action to do at the time. Sometimes mistakes may occur as a result, but you will learn from any mistakes made. By keeping focused on what you need to do, you will get there.

Define success versus time

If the benefits change during program/project execution, advise the appropriate stakeholder and customers accordingly so they adjust their expectations. Ensure that they want to continue the effort.

Accept discontinuation of the project if it gets to the point at which the costs, and not just financial costs, outweigh the benefits. Always capture and record lessons learned, and agree on how to share them so that new programs and projects take them on board.

In conclusion, remember that as the program/project manager you are the leader and your team will tend to mimic your actions, particularly in a crisis or in times of stress. Follow the basics of keeping cool under pressure and maintain the ‘calm eye of the storm’ for your team.

Remember, your program or project is a temporary endeavour and it too shall pass. We hope you take this short article and put a copy in your crisis or risk folder for reference if you ever need it.

We would really like to hear from you if you have any feedback or a story to tell us. If so, please email us at

PM Oracles is Gareth Byatt, Gary Hamilton, Jeff Hodgkinson and Duke Okes, all experienced PMO, program, and project managers who share a common passion to help others and share knowledge about PMO, portfolio, program and project management.
has written 29 articles for us.


Need a Gravatar (the image next to your comments)? Visit

Comments from the community

  • PM Oracles.

    Good Article and very relavant to also managing a Design Team which is a complex and difficult task to undertake as part of the Project Management Process. A good Design Manager will need to follow all the rules and points you have highlighted to get the best outcome from the design process and his design team.

    Paul Sancandi

  • Charanjeet Singh says:

    “With power comes responsibility”
    Completely agree that behaviour of the team in a crisis situation is a reflection of PM’s behaviour. I would like to extend it further – behaviour of a team at all times is a reflection of a PM in a project environment. Also, same applies to organizations in general, the behaviour of teams is always a reflection of their leader. That to me is the biggest leadership responsibility