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How to Apply the Stop, Drop, and Roll Technique to avoid a Project Firestorm!

Is your project over budget? Are you behind schedule? Are you missing key people and resources to make your project a success? Do you constantly feel like you are fighting fires and can’t get ahead?

Today we are going to embrace our inner child and learn how to be a Project Fire Fighter. Let’s start with the basics: Stop, Drop, and Roll.

Step 1: Stop – Too often when we start to see a project slipping, our instinct is that we can make up the time or budget if we just shave a little off here or there. We tend to try to move faster to outrun the problem and somehow get in front of it. Whether you are going over budget, behind your schedule, or missing key resources, running faster will not make the problem go away. In fact, much like a fire, running faster will most likely add fuel to it. Our first step is to stop.

Stopping can be scary but this leads us to our next step:

Step 2: Drop – As a leader, it often makes sense to keep a 30,000 foot view. It is critical that you create the right balance for your team by both Trusting and Verifying the reasons for a change in the plan. When that first change comes, it is the BEST opportunity to determine the root cause and adjust approach.

This can feel like overkill or overreach –especially early on in the project life-cycle. However, as firefighters know, the difference between an errant spark and a forest fire is not much. If the root cause of the needed change is not addressed, it is likely that it will happen again and again. The budget overages and delays will keep coming and can grow rapidly. Don’t hesitate to drop down to support your team to identify the sparks, ask the right questions, request the details, and help the team address not only the initial spark but give them the tools to put that first small fire fully out and avoid relapse.

Step 3: Roll – Which brings us to the final step – Roll. The act of rolling back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, is critical to avoid the most intense damage and also avoid a relapse. In Project Management terms, the act of rolling back and forth highlights the need for excellent communication with all stakeholders to make sure that all team members are aligned with the project plan and bought into the solution and how to manage change. Regular team meetings, and status updates that focus on risk management, help to identify potential issues early and develop mitigation strategies to avoid the most damaging ones.

John Maxwell said “Change is inevitable…. Growth is optional.”

Managing change can be challenging, but we can avoid a project firestorm by choosing to learn from our mistakes, and:

1. Stopping ourselves from rushing past them,

2. Dropping down to identify the root cause, and

3. Rolling changes out with effective communication,

If you are currently in a project firestorm, reach out to for a targeted intervention and support correcting your course. You can fight fire with fire and the support of Echo Consulting, because:

Projects are meant to be temporary, but your success should not be.


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