The (New) Hierarchy of Needs – Part V

[This is the final segment of a five-part series on project management that is based upon Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs"]

Problem Solving

The next level starts to go into the core of the project - problem solving.  This is essentially what all projects are about.

What is a problem?  A problem is an obstacle which makes it difficult to achieved a desired goal or objective.  Problem solving can be fun as it helps to build a certain skill set regardless of the topic.  In the project management space, problem solving is the name of the game.  While many problems may be obvious, there are many that will not be as obvious and may remain hidden.  It’s the job of the project manager to uncover these hidden problems and take steps to address them.

To ensure understanding, hidden problems are those that are known by the project team but aren’t being surfaced to project leadership.  Team members are more likely to hide problems if they don’t have confidence these problems will be addressed.  Problems can also remain hidden if there isn’t a clear understanding of who can solve them.

Your role as project manager is first and foremost your relationship with the team – if team members have a clear understanding of the objective and team organization, and have confidence in your ability to lead, problems will be raised much more rapidly and the team will be able to make greater traction in the long-run.

Thus, your ability to lead, instill “order” and “structure” and tackle the tough problems are all very important in this “layer”.


At the top of the pyramid is momentum – that’s what ultimately keeps the project going!  Initial momentum naturally follows the layers just described, but it ultimately requires a core belief that the project will be successful.

As shared earlier, the ultimate goal of this new hierarchy is to have every team member reach their full potential.  While this is a lofty goal, if you want to deliver a quality product / service in a short period of time, this is what you need to shoot for.

As with any moving object, ensuring that you maintain positive momentum is ultimately dependent upon the source of “power.”  In a project, that source of power is the team and the hierarchy tiers that fall just below this one.  The more organized and refined the underlying layers, the less “friction” and the longer you can maintain positive momentum over the long-term.