As with most things in life, no matter how detailed and comprehensive the initial planning, there will always be things that change or unexpected events that were not foreseen. In terms of project management, there is much debate as to how much blame to attribute to a project manager for not seeing a problem coming and making suitable preparations, as this is a key element of the job role.

But again, not every potential problem can be predicted and anticipated. So what happens when something unexpected does arise?

Along with being able to see problems coming before they happen and cause issues, one of the most important attributes that a project manager can possess is the ability to handle changing circumstances and manage the project and associated people to ensure that the project is not derailed. Depending on the situation, sometimes there will be negative consequences of this unexpected event such as an increase in cost or delay of the completion date, but in this case a good project manager will be able to contain these consequences to a minimum before they get out of control and cause major problems rather than minor inconveniences.

Unexpected events can fall into two broad categories: those that can be predicted and those that cannot, and is also where the issues of risk management and contingency come into play. Risk management involves planning for and introducing controls for potential problems, so in these instances problems will have already been planned for and measures put in place to keep the chances of it happening to a minimum. Contingency measures are there for those unforeseen risks and problems which were not/could not be predicted and steps taken to avoid them happening. These are buffers which absorb the impact of an unexpected occurrence; the three most typical being money, time, or action (e.g. substituting one item or service for another).

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