Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 8/5/2004
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Project Management Proverbs
Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [email@example.com]
are many topics that merit discussion within the subject matter of Project
Management, and some of these will be discussed in future e-Newsletters.
However, much can be learned about any topic area by the sayings or “proverbs”
that have developed associated with that topic area. Project Management has a wealth of such “proverbs”,
and it’s fun to reflect on many of them.
The “proverbs” listed below are not mine, although I’ve
certainly used many of them in discussions.
These “proverbs” come from a longer collection that can be
found at www.project-training-uk.freeserve.co.uk/index.htm.
► Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn’t have to do it!
► It takes one woman nine months to have a baby.
It cannot be done in one month by impregnating nine women! (although it
may be more fun trying)
► 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).
► The most valuable and least used WORD in a project manager’s
vocabulary is “NO”.
► The most valuable and least used PHRASE in a project manager’s
vocabulary is “I don’t know”.
► You can con a sucker into
committing to an impossible deadline, but you can’t con him into meeting it.
► If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
► If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it
probably is a duck.
► Too few people on a project can’t solve the problems – too many
create more problems than they solve.
► A problem shared is a buck passed.
► If you can interpret project status data in several different ways,
only the most painful interpretation will be correct.
► What you don’t know hurts you.
► The conditions attached to a promise are forgotten; only the promise
► There’s never enough time to do it right the first time, but
there’s always enough time to go back and do it again.
► If you have time to do it over again, you’ll never get away with
doing it right the first time.
► The bitterness of poor quality lasts long after the sweetness of
making the date is forgotten.
► I know that you believe that you understand what you think I said, but
I am not sure that you realize what you heard is not what I meant.
► The sooner you begin coding, the later you finish.
► What is not on paper has not been said.
► If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.
► If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
► Planning without action is futile; action without planning is fatal.
► The more you plan, the luckier you get.
A lack of planning by you does not constitute an emergency for me.
If you don’t attack the risks, the risks will attack you.
► A little risk management saves a lot of fan cleaning.
► If everything is going exactly to plan, something somewhere is going
► A badly planned project will take three times longer than expected –
a well planned project only twice as long as expected.
► If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, you
haven’t understood the plan.
► When all’s said and done, a lot more is said than done.
► If at first you don’t succeed, remove all evidence you ever tried.
► The project would not have been started if the truth had been told
about the cost and timescale.
► To estimate a project, work out how long it would take one person to
do it then multiply by the number of people on the project.
► There are no good project managers – only lucky ones.
► Everyone asks for a strong project manager – when they get him they
don’t want him.
► Fast – cheap – good: you can have any two.
► The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time – the last 10%
takes the other 90%.
► If it wasn’t for the ‘last minute’, nothing would get
► Activity is not achievement.
► The most successful project managers have perfected the skill of being
comfortable being uncomfortable.
► Warning: dates in the calendar are closer than you think.
► There is no such thing as scope creep – only scope gallop.
► Anything that can be changed will be changed until there is no time
left to change anything.
► If project content is allowed to change freely, the rate of change
will exceed the rate of progress.
► The more ridiculous the deadline, the more money will be wasted trying
to meet it.
► A project gets a year late a day at a time.
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