Managing Problems in Projects

A Systems Approach to Understand, Treat, Avoid and Reduce its Effects


By Wantuir Felippe da Silva Junior



The objective of this article is to present a framework for capturing signals and trends of potential problems in projects before they occur. The focus is to understand the types of problems arising in projects and the different possible actions.


Those who work in the planning environment know that the analytical practice is fundamental in the search of what will be, among the various alternatives, the path of greater chance of success to accomplish something or achieve a goal. Therefore, the accuracy of the references adopted in a plan is subordinated to the theory of probabilities. As these references suffer from lack of accuracy, the greatest value of planning is the continuous exercise of individuals and teams in anticipating and preventing potential problems.

Projects “navigate” in increasingly unstable environments with frequent changes, bringing major challenges in making decisions as they progress. These environments are characterized by elements known as VUCA.

VUCA is an acronym originally used in the military vocabulary to represent the words: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity relating to general conditions and intrinsic situations in a given environment. Being aware of these conditions encourages the use of analytical competence and judgment in identifying and treating problems.

A more detailed definition of this acronym brings the following meanings:

  • Volatility: The nature, speed, volume, and magnitude of change that is not in a predictable pattern. Volatility is turbulence, a phenomenon that is likely to happen more often these days.
  • Uncertainty: The lack of predictability in matters and events.
  • Complexity: The many causes difficult to understand and the attenuating factors (both inside and outside the organization) that are involved in a problem.
  • Ambiguity: The lack of clarity about the meaning of an event. It can also mean the causes and reasons behind things that are about to happen, which are difficult and unclear to define.

Knowledge about the existence of the VUCA environment criteria contributes to the structuring of management processes of the following aspects:

  • Anticipating matters which model the conditions;
  • Comprehending the consequences of matters and actions;
  • Evaluating the interdependency of variables;
  • Preparing for alternate realities and challenges;
  • Interpreting and approaching relevant opportunities.

In short, for most contemporary companies, VUCA is a practical language to promote corporate awareness and readiness.

The VUCA environment can affect some of the project objectives, since it is susceptible to three potential sources of problems: “Jeopardize”, “Risk1” and “Chaos” (figure 1).


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About the Author

Wantuir Felippe da Silva, Jr.



Wantuir Felippe da Silva Junior
has 27 years of experience in the aeronautics industry, with 17 years in project management activities. He has knowledge and practical experience adhering to the concepts and fundamentals of PRINCE2, PMI, IPMA, Agile Methods and Deming Cycle. Mr. da Silva is currently a consultant, mentor, instructor and head of PMO in Integrated Product Development at Embraer (DIP). He is also founder of GPSimples (http://www.gpsimples.com/), an entity whose focus is the qualification of people to the project environment.

Wantuir is creator of the methods:

  • Risk Strainer (a framework that facilitates segregation between risks and issues).
  • Lean Scope Overview (understanding, deploying and managing project scope),
  • Lean Risk Overview Matrix (project risk identification and management),
  • Lean Project Direction – LPD (Progress Management and Project Decisions),
  • E2I2 – Extreme Experience In Innovation (development of creative engineering solutions in product and service design),
  • Wandala (management of interests and deployment of project requirements),
  • Blended 7S Model       & TOC (strategic deployment for projects),
  • Spock Analysis (judgment and decisions associated with deviations in projects)

Wantuir da Silva can be contacted at [email protected]