Project Management

Strategy Vs Luck – Uncertainty in Project Management

While overseeing projects, you may encounter with Uncertainty in Project Management Process.

Getting used to Uncertainty in Project Management will allow you to manage risks and cope up with the management process.

“I believe that people make their own luck with great preparation and a good strategy.” – Jack Canfield

While playing a game you surely deal with some unknown variables and random elements of the game. Performing any task or taking any step in the game could be satisfying or maybe according to you but you should be aware of the effect or result to the next move or next phase of the game.

You definitely need a plan to win the game, as it is said, “without a plan you are planning to fail.” But planning is not enough, one more thing you need to be successful is luck! It is all about strategy vs luck.

Similarly, when it comes to managing projects, it is surely about strategy and outlining. It is about making decisions and planning, planning of the work, and scheduling tasks for project constituents.

You have to examine what could be the risks, what could be the steps to alleviate them, what will be their effects, and finally what effect will it have on the next phase of the project.

It is not only planning and scheduling but also about monitoring the team and staffing project members with adequate properties required for the project.

On the way to achieve success and make your project successful, the management of the project is major, either it is by strategy or by scheduling the project team.

But it is not the only thing that makes a project successful. It might seem that strategy, outlining, and plotting process does not leave any place for luck. It is not so, luck is an equivalently essential part of life, and a project as much strategy is.

Uncertainty in Project Management – Resemblance to Games

Let’s take an example of the game Checkers to make you understand what I meant by my above statement. Checkers is a strategy board game between two players. The game is based on strategy, planning, and looking out for the upcoming phase. In the game checkers, you know that you have fixed moves and steps to follow, you only need to strategize your moves accordingly.

As you may not know what your opponent is up to but you have the idea of options, you can only assume their moves and expected results after their turn. It either can make some changes in your play, or it can completely change the whole game.

You need to plan and strategize what to be done, and if your strategy is better than your opponent you will win.

There are very few games that are wholly based on strategy, but there are other games that may also involve luck and chances as well. One thing to note, luck or we say chances are inherent, the only element in the game which is unknown to the game player.

Project management resembles such kind of games. Managing any project requires strategy and planning, but equivalently requires the element of luck. The project managers have a lot of information and knowledge, but they are not aware of everything.

Project management is not an easy nut to crack, it faces a lot of uncertainty. Uncertainty in Project Management refers to some negative or positive factors that can affect achievable performance to a significant extent.

And Project managers should get used to it, because getting used to uncertainties in Project Management means learning to analyze risks and how to manage them, coping with such factors. and reducing uncertainty in project management.

As in the games played with dice or the card games, there is an uncertainty of getting any number of cards, and the rest is up to you, how you use them.

Rolling the Dice or Probability Game

In the games played with dice, you roll a dice, and you never know what outcome you will get. You have a probability of 1/6 of getting any numerical from 1 to 6. What you can do, you can only plan your moves according to the outcome you will get.

You know your options so you can only strategize your moves and the steps taken, what number will appear after rolling, it is totally up to dice.

Similarly, in project management, you encounter similar variables. You may not know what is going to happen, but you can assume the outcomes and plan your actions.

For instance, you can make a budget for risks. You can make plans for the risks and contingencies that your project can stand to. You may know what could be the risks to your project, but what you can only do is a subtle strategy to get through those uncertainties.

Shuffling of Cards & Stacking of Deck

In card games, everything begins with the shuffling of the deck. The shuffling leads to random outcomes and arrangements are compiled together. As shuffling distorts the arrangement of cards, there is very much less room for strategy.

The players have to play their game with the randomly given cards. But this doesn’t mean you don’t have anything in your hands, In some games to you can stack some cards with you, and can strategize your play. And this is how strategy and luck go hand in hand.

Just like any card game, projects can be dealt the same way. In Project Management, you can stack your project team according to the needs of the project. Seek out for different views and opinions of stakeholders. This way you can have ideas and viewpoints that will be favorable towards your elements.

The project manager in me thinks that luck is as much important as the strategy in project management is. This is how my views look like on risks, strategy, and luck in project management.

What are your thoughts about the impact of strategy and luck in project management? Who do you think is major and will only one of them will suffice your project? And, how do you prefer to strategize your projects?

I welcome your comments below.

By Ashwini Rao

Ashwini is a consultant, trainer, and mentor in the field of Software Quality Management and Project management. She is a certified PMP, certified Quality Analyst and Six Sigma. She is Chief Project Management Trainer at

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