Project Managing in Chaos: Handling Uncertainty

A large part of project management is risk management. In any project, there are bound to be changes and unexpected occurrences, but if the project is properly planned then the project manager and team will be well prepared to handle them. When a project is poorly planned it leads to chaos and productivity loss. As a project manager, it is your responsibility to foresee risk and possible issues so you can implement a solution for each into your project plan.

Your ability to adapt to changing conditions can set you apart from other project managers. In order to understand which parts of your plan are susceptible to risk, organize any possible issues into three main categories: variation, predictable uncertainty, unforeseen uncertainty. By identifying the type of risk for each possible issue, it becomes easier to assess the issue and then set up countermeasures that’ll prepare you in case it occurs.



Preparing for possible project variation before it occurs is a crucial step in project management. Every project is subject to change, no matter how solid the project plan may be. However, a project can stay strong intact if you are properly prepared. Prepare appropriately by identifying all project influences that could ultimately cause the project to take a turn in direction. Once identified, analyze the range of differences each influence could make and whether the outcome would be positive, negative, or neutral. For example, if you are aware that various resources will be assigned to the project, reinforce your onboarding and training plan to accommodate these evolving resources.


Predictable Uncertainty

Similar to project variation, predictable events should be analyzed and implemented into the project plan before the plan is put into action. Start by analyzing the possible events that could take place within your initial project plan. It’s important to take into account that even planned events could go wrong. Once you map out the risk and solutions of predictable events in the project plan, then you can use the foreseeable variations you previously identified to evaluate predictable events outside of the initial plan. Such events may require a large-scale intervention, so ensure you are able to recognize these events when they occur. Detect and manage risks appropriately and in advance to avoid project chaos.


Unforeseen Uncertainty

Nobody can predict the unknown, however, you can use your resources and what you already know to predict unexpected issues that may come your way. Think outside the box and use exercises such as holding a brainstorming session as a part of the project team bonding. You may be able to isolate some of these events based on your team member’s collective experience. When you’re working on leading-edge projects, accepting some level of unexpected outcomes can be part of the thrill.


Project management is half creating the plan and half navigating the workflow as the plan evolves and takes turns. Effective project managers take uncertainty and unpredictable events into account and build their project plan to incorporate these contingencies. Proper project management allows you to alleviate stress, reduce errors, and handle complexity by pinpointing and preparing for potential problems.

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