Project Management Institute

Masters of change



People often have habits and behavior patterns that seem set in stone. But as a project leader, you have to be flexible with team members and be ready to adapt to the project environment.

Here are some tips for project managers on how to become more adaptable:

Break new ground. If a person works hard and becomes highly skilled in one area, he or she can transfer that ability to new endeavors. “I am willing to put myself through anything. Temporary pain or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level,” says Efrain Romero of Atos Origin, Madrid, Spain. “I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers.”

Don't see everything as a challenge or threat. Some people view any shift—the addition of another talented person to the team, any change in their position—with suspicion. But emotionally secure people evaluate a new situation or change in their responsibilities based on its merit.

Be creative and find a way to get the work done. When a person suggests trying things a new way, you can actually see the pain it causes among some team members. Those who don't react with fear are the really creative people. They think it's worth a try even if it doesn't quite work out.

Make a Change

If you think your ability to adapt needs a little work, here are a few actions you can take:

img Get into the habit of learning. For many years, I'd write down new things I learned in a small notebook I carried around. At the end of the day I would try to share the idea with a friend or colleague and then file it for future use. Doing so got me in the habit of looking for things to learn about.

img Reevaluate your role. Look for other duties you could fulfill. The process may prompt you to make a transition, and even if it doesn't, the exercise will increase your flexibility.

img Think outside the lines. Look for unconventional solutions every time you meet a challenge. Don't think about why it can not be done, but how it can be done.


Think of the team. People who are focused on themselves are less likely to make changes for the good of the team than people focused on serving others. If your goal as a project manager is to serve the team, adapting to accomplish that goal shouldn't be difficult.

One of the greatest generals in military history was Napoleon Bonaparte and one of his most formidable enemies was the Duke of Wellington. But Napoleon discovered the mistake his opponent consistently made: He drew up his plans the day before battle, when he did not yet know his adversary's movements.

Napoleon recognized his opponent's lack of adaptability—still an important lesson for project managers. PM

Alfonso Bucero, PMP, is an independent consultant who manages projects throughout Europe and Asia. He is the author of Project Management—A New Vision and coauthor of Project Sponsorship: Achieving Management Commitment for Project Success.

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