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Project Manager : Project Manager Aug Sept 2012
36 Project Manager At soMe stAge or Another In theIr careers, all project leaders are forced to make decisions under conditions of stress. Project management is time dependent; we are governed by schedules, m ilestones and deliverables. stress has an interesting effect on our ability to make good decisions. however, stress is not necessar ily all bad. Positive stress is good for us to a point Positive stresses, such as the excitement caused by a thriller movie, a physical or mental challenge or an exciting football game are actually important for us to have in our lives. Without positive stress, we would become depressed and perhaps feel a lack of meaning in life. not striving for goals, not overcoming challenges and not having a reason to wake up in the morning would be damaging to us – it keeps us healthy and happy. one frequently discussed subject associated with stress is the development of resilience, an essential characteristic for effective leaders. Leaders are pri marily decision-makers, therefore it is about leadership performance under stress. Cooperation relies on decision- making patterns There are other effects of stress that should place project leaders on their guard . Kontogiannis and Kossiavelou (1999) investigated the decision- mak ing strategies and cooperation patterns of high performance teams under stress. They conclude that high levels of stress restricts cue sampling, decreases v igilance, reduces the capacity of work ing memory, causes premature closure in evaluating alternative options and results in task shedding. If, as seems to be the case based on research, leaders and teams tend to reduce the amount of information that they ta ke in dur ing periods of stress, this is both an important and troubling finding. As a result of this, behaviour decisions made under stress are more likely to be based on impoverished information at the very time when rich information is needed. Also, because stress has the effect of encouraging premature closure – making decisions before all facts are known – there is a high risk the decision will be inadequate for the situation. As part of this process, important tasks might be set aside without due consideration. however, as we know, during conditions of uncertainty, when risk s are rapidly escalating and key stakeholders are demanding a decision, an effective leader needs to makes a timely decision. In so doing, they take responsibility for the risk that the decision is the right one. ultimately, it is the leader or leadership team who is responsible for the final call. Military history especially has demonstrated that very effective leaders tend to surround • CArEEr CEnTrE The jury is out on exactly how stress affects our decision- making capability. But research is starting to raise some really interesting questions, and there are even a few answers. Stress test KayE rEMinGtOn Kaye remington is author of Leading Complex Projects (gower Publishing, 2010) and co-author of Tools for Complex Projects (gower Publishing, 2007). she has more than 25 years of senior management and project experience and is a former director of the post-graduate Project Management Program at the university of Technology sydney. remington runs a small consulting firm that works internationally to help organisations develop their capacity to deliver complex strategy and projects. ALL prOjEcT LEADErs ArE fOrcED TO mAKE DEcIsIONs uNDEr cONDITIONs Of sTrEss
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Project Manager Oct Nov 2012