Project Management - Are you to blame for failing to predict events?
As stated on the project management index page, "a project can be thought of as something which is different to a normal work process and produces a unique product, service or result, i.e. it is different to the normal 'business as usual' operations of the organisation." This means that a project is typically a step into the unknown, as being different to the normal work process will mean that the project manager and also those working on the project will usually have little or no prior experience of this sort of task.
So it is likely that unexpected occurrences will arise and certain things will go wrong. And yet one of the main responsibilities of a project manager is to predict problems before they become a reality in order to avoid them. So if an adverse situation does occur, is it the fault of the project manager, or just one of those things?
That question is a difficult one, and has no real definitive answer. A project manager does need to be good at foreseeing problems, but it will be impossible for them to predict every single thing that could go wrong, let alone take preventative action against it. Depending on the nature of the work involved, there will be some things for which it could be said that the project manager should have foreseen, and there will be others for which virtually nobody could have predicted (e.g. a freak weather event).
Using the weather analogy above gives a perfect example of how subjective the question of blame and predictability is. Take a building project in Florida which is virtually destroyed overnight by a severe hurricane. It could be argued that the project manager could not predict the weather and so it is not their fault that the whole project needs to be started again at a serious cost and time delay. They could not avoid starting building on the off-chance that there would be a hurricane. However, there will be others that will question whether more could have been done, such as postponing the building project until after the hurricane season has passed, asking if certain things could have been moved or better protected from a storm. There are many more questions and arguments for both sides, but again, the apportion of blame or not will usually vary between people looking at the project from different sides. It is also much easier to ask these questions after the event has occurred, rather then before something has taken place.