By Lakecia Carter, PMP

I was reading an article on fire safety and came across an old familiar concept that I learned as a child. “STOP, DROP and ROLL” is a technique to follow if your clothes catch on fire. The principles are quite simple: Stop – Do not run; Drop to the floor; Cover your face and roll over and over to smother the fire. Do not stop until the flames are extinguished”. I began to think about how we ought to respond when our projects catch on fire. Of course, I don’t recommend that you “stop drop and roll” on the floor in your next project team meeting. Rather, I think we can apply the same principles in how we respond to project issues. Every issue is not a fire, but I’m sure you have experienced project fires before. The challenge is not the issue or fire, but putting the fire out quickly before it spreads. Here’s how we can apply this simple principle to driving issues to closure quickly.


Stop and assess the issue and the impact quickly. If you run while your clothes are on fire – you risk spreading the burns and harming yourself even more. Same applies to project issues. If you don’t take time to understand the problem properly, you may end up making the problem worse.


Get down to the root cause of the issue. Sometimes we expend a lot of energy on the symptoms rather than the diagnosis. Ask yourself, What is the single most important issue and the right course of corrective action to take right now? Make sure you have the right people at the right time for the right reason.


Drive closure to issues with tenacity and a true sense of urgency. Just like when you roll to put out a fire, “don’t stop until the flames are extinguished”. All issues must have actions and owners with commitment dates for closure. Where possible, try to knock out issues within a week from being opened or as fast as you possibly can.

Of course, we should check our “fire alarms” to make sure they can detect smoke and alert us before issues becomes fires. Frequent communication and collaboration are like the batteries in your smoke alarm. If you don’t have them, it won’t work. Managing risk is equally important in this formula for fire safety.

The next time your project catches on fire, just remember to STOP, DROP and ROLL until the flames are extinguished. You could save your project and your team from getting burned beyond recognition!
What are some of the ways you extinguish fires on your projects? I’d love for you to share!
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