Imagine this: You're managingthe rollout of a newsales-tracking software system foryour 100-person sales team. Thenew system is easy for thesalespeople to use, since it relies on a common Web browser for its userinterface. As with most projects, the timeline is tight, thebudget is slim, and the expectations for success are high. Thepilot program helped identify glitches, and now you're readyto install the system on 100 desktop computers and 100 morelaptops.

After your team completes the PC installations, they begindownloading the current sales data from the laptops into thePCs. Then the trouble starts. Between the time youpiloted the sales software and today, most of the salespeopledownloaded the new version of a Web browser, creating ahost of new glitches. Your team is back at square one: Howcan we load the new software without disrupting the salesteam's work, which is the backbone of our business?

Even the best-laid plans run into roadblocks - that's thenature of any project. It's a very rare project that follows itsoriginal path from beginning to end without a hitch or bump orturn. The solution is to adapt, to be able to suggest avalid contingency plan in a moment's notice.

Why should you care?

At least two reasons: improved in-house performance andbetter customer service. As more and more employees aremeasured on performance, rather than time served in theorganization, the success of a project - including stayingwithin timelines and budgets, working well in a team, andachieving measurable goals - has a direct effect on yourbonus or promotion. Demonstrating that you can solveproblems and motivate others to do so (as opposed to simplyfollowing orders) bodes well for deserved recognition and isa wonderful learning opportunity.

For a business leader, building a contingency plan beforethings go awry helps avoid costly problems down the road,while reinforcing a shared responsibility for generating ideasand solving problems. Going into crisis mode withoutforethought can be expensive, with costs resulting frommissed deadlines, hiring additional staff or consultants to fix aproblem, greater-than-expected time requirements affectingstaff availability for other projects, and poor products andservices - all of which result threaten client relationshipsand even employee morale and retention.

As a team, being able to adjust confidently and smoothly tochanges in course engenders confidence in your client andreduces the stress and extra physical and mental workassociated with a plan in chaos. Participating in successful problem solving can also be a team builder and moralebooster.