21 February, 2023

Solving Problems in the Gray Areas of Projects | Video

By Mike Clayton

21 February, 2023

gray areas, problem-solving, video

We often encounter tricky problems in our projects. And what can make them difficult is that the issues involved are not simply black and white; good or bad. Sometimes they are a little murky: shades of gray.

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Problems in the Gray Areas of Projects

Sometimes the problems you face are a little murky: shades of gray.

The Problems get Harder Still

Like when you don’t have all the facts. Or maybe emotions are running high among your stakeholders. Perhaps your team can’t agree on the right solution.

This is what Joseph Badaracco, calls ‘Managing in the Gray’

His book ‘Managing in the Gray’ looks to many strands of philosophy for help. And it distills that wisdom into five questions you can ask. 

He also gives a very useful piece of advice, to which I shall add one word (bracketed):

‘When you face a gray area problem, you should work through it as a [project] manager and resolve it as a human being.’

Badaracco’s Five Questions

Here are the five questions the author recommends you ask:

  1. What are the net, net consequences?
    This question takes a utilitarian point of view. It compels you to look forward to all the outcomes of your possible choice.
  2. What are my core obligations
    This one is about duty and accountability. It asks us to respect good governance.
  3. What will work in the world as it is?
    Here, we need to be pragmatic. It’s as much about realpolitik as it is about practicality.
  4. Who are we?
    We also need to consider our values and ethical choices.
  5. What can I live with?
    I think of this as a negotiator’s bottom line. But it also recognizes the impact of your conscience. Is it a decision you’ll regret?

Carefully curated video recommendations for you:

What Kit does a Project Manager Need?

I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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