Project Management Truisms

A collection of project management truisms collected over the years.  Feel free to share.

Scope Management Truisms

  • Initial planning is the most vital part of a project.  The review of most failed projects indicates the disasters were well planned to happen from the start.
  • Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn’t have to do it
  • At the heart of every large project is a small project trying to get out.
  • The most valuable and least used WORD in a project manager’s vocabulary is “NO”.
  • When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!

Time Management Truisms

  • You can force someone into committing to an impossible deadline, but you cannot force him to meet it.
  • If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.
  • Tasks progress quickly until they become 90 percent complete and then remain at 90 percent forever.
  • A project gets a year late one day at a time.
  • The sooner you start the implementation phase, the later you’ll finish.
  • The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time available.  The last 10% takes the other 90%.

Quality Management Truisms

  • The nice thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded  by a period of worry and depression.
  • A change freeze is like the abominable snowman: it is a myth and will always melt when heat is applied.
  • While there never seems to be enough time to do it right the first time, there always seems to enough time to go back and do it again.
  • If you don’t know how to do a task, start it, then ten people who know less than you will tell you how to do it.
  • Projects happen in two ways: a) Planned and then executed or b) Executed, stopped, planned, and then executed.

Cost Management Truisms

  • The same work under the same conditions will be estimated differently by ten different estimators or by one estimator at ten different times.
  • Any project can be estimated accurately (once it’s completed).
  • Projects with realistic budgets and timetables don’t get approved.

Resource Management Truisms

  • Most managers succeed on the skills and strength of their staff.
  • If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
  • Too few people on a project can’t solve the problems – too many create more problems than they solve.
  • A comfortable project manager is one waiting for their next assignment (or on the verge of failure).
  • Everyone asks for a strong project manager – when they get one they don’t want one.
  • Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
  • A leader leads by example, whether s/he wants to or not.
  • People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.
  • Confidence comes from success, knowledge comes from failure.
  • A company is known by the people it keeps.
  • I’m not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues. (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

Communications Management Truisms

  • If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.
  • Of several possible interpretations of a communication, the least convenient is the probably the correct one.
  • If it’s not a paper – it wasn’t said.
  • A working meeting has about six people attending.  Meetings larger than this are for information transfer.
  • I know that you believe that you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
  • The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.
  • If you don’t know, say so. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, stop talking.
  • Hope creep: Lying on status report, hoping to make it up before the next report.
  • Bad news does not improve with age.

Risk Management Truisms

  • Wrong decisions made early can be recovered from.  Right decisions made late cannot correct them.
  • The more you plan the luckier you get.
  • If you don’t attack the risks, the risks will attack you.
  • What you don’t know hurts you.
  • The most valuable and least used PHRASE in a project manager’s vocabulary is “I don’t know”.
  • Murphy is alive and well – and working on your project.
  • The solution is always simple – after you know what it is.
  • What we need is an exact list of specific unknown risks we might encounter.
  • No matter how smart you are, wisdom only comes from experience.

Procurement Management Truisms

  • Fast – cheap – good: pick any two.
  • The conditions attached to a promise are forgotten, only the promise is remembered.
  • A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.

Stakeholder Management Truisms

  • A successful project manager is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks the stakeholders have thrown at him.
  • A user will tell you anything you ask about, but nothing more.
  • Very simple problems can be made confusing, complex, and insoluble if you hold enough meetings.
  • Anger is never about what you think you’re angry about.
  • If it’s stupid but works, it isn’t stupid.
  • Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. (Winston Churchill)
  • Projects don’t fail in the end; they fail at conception.
  • The key to success may be unknown, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.