Background on this post

This post started from a tweet that resonated with me. I realized that if we spend all our time managing emergencies, we leave the project at a standstill, without a leader or a vision.

Project management and firefighting

One thing most bloggers won’t admit to is how
they often find inspiration for their posts: in other blogs and tweets.
Anywho, I found my inspiration for today’s post from this Tweet: “Why do so many professionals say they are project managing, when what
they are actually doing is fire fighting? – Colin Bentley” from

  1. It’s a vicious circle.

How can we move from firefighter to forest rangers?

While fire fighters are very visible and have a high-risk, dangerous job, forest rangers a just as important: they keep fires from starting in the first place. It’s not as glamorous as fire fighting, but it causes less damage.

  1. Plan, plan, plan. Thinking ahead is the most important skill for forest rangers. They must know where the problem areas are in their projects, and figure out a way to fix the problems beforehand.
  2. Listen. Ears open, mouth closed is the best way to get information about a project’s sensitive areas.
  3. Learn from the past. Those project closing meetings and lessons learned documents should not gather dust in the archives.
  4. Invest a little time now to save a lot of grief later. Not skipping project planning processes may seem time-consuming (especially from the point of view of project stakeholders), but this time will be repaid many times over in the emergencies that will be avoided.
  5. Ask for help when you need it. The problem with heroes is they sometimes try to do it all on their own…which may make things worse. If you’ve got too much on your place, ask for help from your team, other project managers in your organizations, or your project sponsor.

Fire fighters may be glamorous, but forest rangers prevent fires

Which would you rather be? The firefighting project manager that is always running around and fixing emergencies, or the forest ranger project manager who keeps projects running smoothly?