Emotions in Project Management

Here is a true story about Emotions in Project Management. A Canadian high tech company designed small TV sets to be installed in front of each exercise machine in fitness clubs. Each set had a screen and keypad to change channels, volume, and so on. Originally, all the keypads were supposed to use bubbly buttons, sticking out from the keypad.

One day the company CEO, a businessman, not a project manager or hardware engineer, demonstrated the device to somebody very influential in the fitness industry. This person had read somewhere about an experiment that demonstrated that bubbly buttons were less durable than flat buttons. Apparently, somebody had pressed on a bubbly button one million times and it stopped working and in addition, made the claim that flat buttons were more durable.

On that same day, the CEO went back to his office and requested a redesign of the keypad with flat buttons. Interestingly, nobody, including the CEO and engineers, knew anything about the actual experiment with the one million button clicks. But it was the CEO’s order and the engineers started the new development.

Later on, when the whole project was delayed, the CEO discovered that the reason was his own request to re-design a keypad. As emperor Pavel I, the CEO was quite surprised. He asked why the engineers did not provide him with cost and duration estimates! The CEO was told that the redesign and changing of suppliers would mean changes to the project cost and schedule. But he was so emotional on that day that he was unable to use or recall any of the advice or estimates any his project team had provided.

If you find that people are around you are making decisions that seem stupid, irrational, counterproductive (you name it), there is a good chance that it is because of their emotions. Getting angry with them will not help and may exacerbate the issue. Remember that given time, their emotions will return to a normal state and at that time they may see in retrospect that their actions were rash and they have the option to change their decisions.

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