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10 More Quotes That Make You a Better Project Manager

~ By Duncan Haughey

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The Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines a quote as, to ​repeat the words that someone ​else has said or written.

Most people quoted have something insightful to say, something that helps us. Often, it provides us with the better understanding of a subject.

Over the years, a body of useful quotes has built up from management experts that can help us become better project managers. Here are ten such quotes worthy of some thought.

You can't keep it all in your head. Project control tools are an absolute necessity for the control of large projects.

Louis Fried, 1992

These days, most companies use project management software to manage large projects. It is reasonable for the customer to ask to see your project plan, RAID log, risk register and other documents. If these are not readily available, it gives the impression you are not managing the project well. Software solutions will help you stay organised, provide up-to-date metrics, and take the time and pain out of updating documentation and calculating statistics.

Don't use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, but equally don't agree important things informally where there is a chance of a disagreement later over what was agreed.

Colin Bentley, 1997

All project managers need to find the right balance between process and pragmatism. We have all been on projects where arduous processes slow work down, with little reason other than, this is the way we work around here. Always sign off requirements with your customer, create a project plan, look at risks and issues, but do not expect your customers to undertake one size fits all form filling exercises. Tailor processes to what is needed to run your project successfully and discard everything else.

The functional groups should not be allowed to stretch out the project for the sake of improvement, refinement, or the investigation of the most remote potential risk.

Meredith and Mantel, 1995

This problem occurs when people take work beyond what is needed or reasonable. In a recent project, testers were spending several extra days testing improbable use-cases on a new website. Ask whether you are trying to build the best possible product or one that fits the requirements of your customer. Some people will indulge their wish to stretch out the project for personal reasons and satisfaction. Curb this by making sure a clear set of user requirements are agreed, signed-off and shared with all project team members. Make it clear that deviation from the agreed requirements is unacceptable.

One good test is worth a thousand expert opinions.

Wernher von Braun, 1972

Testing is an area often neglected or cut in projects. When nearing the end of a project where budgets and time are tight, it is often tempting to reduce the testing phase and rely on the opinion of your team. However, you will never know the quality of a product or service until you have tested it. We can all speculate on what we think the result will be, but no matter how expert, it is still only a matter of opinion. Always allow enough time for testing and rework during the project.

The conditions attached to a promise are forgotten, and the promise is remembered.

Edwards, Butler, Hill and Russell, 1997

Always document and confirm any agreement you make with your customers and suppliers. If you promise to deliver something as long as certain conditions get met, make sure it is in writing, agreed and a signature obtained if necessary. After all, what is not on paper has not been said.

The P in PM is as much about People Management as it is about Project Management.

Cornelius Fichtner, 2007

Project management is mostly about managing people. People are your most valuable asset. They will make a project succeed or fail. You are steering, but they are the engine that will take you to your goal. The key to your success is to make sure you have the right people on your project, so if work goes wrong, they will save you.

A good plan can help with risk analyses, but it will never guarantee the smooth running of the project.

Bentley and Borman 2001

A plan is not a project, but it goes a long way to helping projects run well. To reach a successful conclusion, many areas of work must come together. Project planning and risk management are two such areas. As the project manager, you are responsible for guiding your project much as a sea-captain guides his ship through different seas, some calm and some stormy.

Projects progress quickly until they become 90% complete; then remain at 90% complete forever.

 Edwards, Butler, Hill and Russell, 1997

This phenomenon is where the last ten percent of the project is the most challenging and time-consuming. This situation occurs because the most difficult parts of a project get left until last. It is better to eat the live frog first. Meaning, if you remove the difficult parts of the project first, the rest of your project will be easier, and you will avoid the never-ending last ten percent.

Business is often about killing your favourite children to allow others to succeed.

John Harvey-Jones, 1990

Many of us have encountered a project that struggles for months, years sometimes, with everyone knowing it is destined to fail. Is a miracle likely to occur? We may have invested a lot personally in the project. We do not want it to fail and may still believe in the result, making it hard to let go. We plod on, wasting time and money hoping that it will come right in the end. When the writing is on the wall, it is best to kill projects quickly. Stop wasting time and money and put it to good use elsewhere. Make failed projects a learning experience that helps you in your next venture.

Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.

Peter Drucker, 1993

Most people understand that to achieve any goal, vision or objective you need a plan. However, writing a plan is just the start. Unless that plan is put immediately into action your goal, vision or purpose will remain a good intention. History is littered with visions, ideas and dreams that remained just that.


These quotations are the compressed wisdom of many years experience. Keep them in mind and let them help you navigate your way to a successful project.


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