Project Management Wisdom


  • No major project has ever been completed on time, within budget and performed as expected with the same staff that started it.
  • Over the whole duration of a project it generally takes 10% of the time to reach 90% completion.  Completing the last 10% takes the remaining 90% duration if the project completes at all.
  • If project content is allowed to change unchecked, the rate of change will invariably exceed the rate of progress.
  • No system is ever completely debugged.  Debugging a system introduces new bugs which are even harder to find.
  • Project teams abhor progress reporting as it vividly shows the lack of progress.
  • You cannot gestate a human baby in one month by impregnating 9 women.
  •  The same work under the same conditions will be estimated differently by different estimators.
  • The same work under the same conditions will be estimated differently by the same estimator at different times.
  • The most valuable and least used word in a project manager’s vocabulary is “NO!”
  • You can bully someone into committing to an unrealistic deadline, but you cannot bully them into meeting it.
  • Time, Price, Quality.  Pick any two, you can’t have all three.
  • The more desperate the situation, the more optimistic the situatee.
  • A project can freeze the customer requirements, but that will not stop the customer requiring.
  • The conditions of a commitment are forgotten while the commitment is remembered.
  • Ignorance is bliss; but only for a short while, what you do not know will come back and hurt you.
  • A customer will not tell you what you do not know, only what you ask.
  • Of the many possible interpretations of a communication, you can count on the most inconvenient, time consuming and costly being the correct one.
  • If it is not written down, it was not said and did not happen.

Thanks to Piet Beukman, Director, Engineering Management Programme, University of Canterbury, New Zealand for many of these aphorisms, some of which I’ve paraphrased.

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