We all have them—tales of outlandish requests, draconian stakeholders, irrational end users, and other garden-variety project craziness. But did you know those war stories can do more than fill up the minutes while you wait for a meeting to start? As amusing as these gems are, smart Project Teams are learning they can also be treasure troves of insight and instruction.

Getting new ideas. Sometimes it’s helpful to look at a situation from a truly new point of view, which is exactly what war stories do with their seemingly absurd requests. Once you’ve had a good chuckle, think about what the requestor was ultimately trying to accomplish. Their ideas for implementation might be off kilter, but they could point you toward a more realistic solution you hadn’t previously considered.


Keeping problems in perspective. If a certain high-ranking stakeholder is notorious for their demonstrative meltdowns that ultimately fizzle (read: no one gets fired as a result), that’s a valuable war story. Not only will it help your newest employee realize they aren’t the first one to trigger an episode—and they likely won’t be the last—but your team can also take comfort in the fact that this, too, shall pass.


Remembering how past difficulties were conquered. Many war stories involve a series of troubles which might have seemed insurmountable at the time. How did you overcome those challenges, and can you apply the same strategy in your current predicament? Using that past situation as a blueprint, is there something you can do proactively to sidestep future problems?


Keeping sane. Yes, what war stories sometimes do best is remind us that craziness can’t always be avoided. When your Project Team’s morale has taken a pounding, a good war story can bring everyone together and remind them they’re all on the same team.

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