Leading High-Performance Teams in High-Pressure Projects

Lon Roberts, Ph.D.

Principal Partner

Roberts & Roberts Associates

Texas, USA


High stakes, high risks, tight budgets, compressed schedules … any of these alone is sufficient to diminish the performance of a project team where tightly-coupled collaboration is essential.  But more often than not, in today’s project environment these factors are woven together in a dynamic tapestry where one factor plays off of another, adding an order-of-magnitude to the challenge of leading such teams and delivering the intended outcomes.  This paper describes the complex factors that are causing many to question the efficacy and utility of some of our most sacrosanct project management methods and tools.  It draws insights from NASA’s “Faster, Better, Cheaper” missions in the 1990s as well as the author’s personal experience as it pertains to achieving peak performance from a team of highly-skilled knowledge workers who are required to perform under high-stress, high-stakes circumstances.  It ends by summarizing lessons learned for leading project teams in an environment where traditional methods of controlling people and circumstances are increasingly failing to achieve the desired results.

In late October and early November of 2003 the earth’s magnetic field was bombarded by a barrage of ferocious solar storms, some of the most powerful ever recorded.  The storms, which were the result of an outbreak of 17 major solar flares, produced eerie aurora patterns that could be seen in the night sky as far south as Texas and Florida.  Because of their spooky appearance and when they occurred, they became known as “The Halloween Storms of 2003.”


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 6th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2012.  It is republished here with the permission of the authors and UT Dallas.

About the Author

Lon Roberts, PhD


Dr. Lon Roberts is in demand as a seminar leader and conference speaker. He has held positions ranging from systems engineer to executive director and has authored numerous articles and five books, including the Quality Press classic, Process Reengineering: The Key to Achieving Breakthrough Success. Lon’s book, SPC for Right-Brain Thinkers—also published by Quality Press—provides access to statistical process control by knowledge workers who find it difficult to grasp the typical left-brain approach to this important topic. Listed among his clients are Texas Instruments, Alcatel, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Texas Capital Bank, Lennox Industries, Baylor University, Tivoli Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, and the U.S. Army, to name a few.  Email: [email protected] or www.R2assoc.com