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.
Human 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.