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Saturday, 24 March 2007 10:46

Heresy - or why there aren't 10 laws of Project Management

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I have wanted to write about this topic for a while now.  For those of you who believe that Project Management must be followed absolutely or those who believe that Project Management must be done the “Right” way – sorry.  This article will only aggravate you.  Let’s talk about some of the things that we hear far too often from gurus and pontiffs about how you must manage your projects. 


Apologies up front as this may become a rant if I get too excited.

I believe that these articles, books, and people are doing our profession as much harm as good.  We all suffer when non-PM people hear things like “Every project must have a charter.”  When you couple that with the “everything is a project” mantra, it is not hard to see why Project Managers do not always get the support they need.  Think about it, if everything is a project and all projects must have charters – where are all the charters?  Obviously there aren’t charters for every project; therefore every project does not need a charter – therefore – whoever says that is full of … well you know.    Boy – I’ll bet my Philosophy 101 (deductive logic) professor would be proud of me!

We want to inform and encourage those who are not familiar with Project Management to take a close look, not try to brow beat them into conformance.  One of the first ways we can benefit our profession is to look at the language we use. 

In the paragraph above, I italicized some words.  Words like every and must are the stock and trade of fanatics and the closed minded.  You will read articles and books that discuss best practices or great ideas as if they were dogma.  To these I say “baloney” – actually not my first choice, but I’m not a fanatic.  By using this language, we leave no room for discussion, no room for thought, and we close the door on those who are just learning about project management.  Once closed, that door is hard to re-open. 

I think that some of us use hyperbole to try and get the message across, maybe that works some times, maybe it doesn’t.  In an attempt to seem uncompromising in our dedication we can come across as unreasonable and close-minded.  I was in a seminar once where a nationally known speaker said something to the effect that if you are working on something other than your project you can not be a good project manager.  One of the audience was a part-time PM and he was told that he could not be a good PM if he was doing something else.  Let’s think about this silly logic for a minute. 

This person also happened to be a loving father – does that mean he can’t be a good PM – I know he spent time with his family.  How is that different that spending time on other work?  I could go on, but the idea is once we drive a stake in the ground by making irrational “with me or against me” kinds of statements we leave the reasoning listener little choice. 

I don’t want to imply that there are no good times to use these words.  These words do have a place – but that place is not in a practice or profession.  These words belong to another realm that includes religion, ethics, behavior and Truth.  “Thou shall not kill” is pretty clear, uncompromising and appropriate.  Taking that to “Thou shall have no project without a charter” is a little nuts – well – it’s a lot nuts.  Project Management is a profession, discipline – even a calling for some, but it is not an ethos or the road to salvation.

So, to those of you with the 10 irrefutable laws, or 5 incontrovertible rules, or whatever, I say – get a hold of yourself people – and stop making the rest of us look like crazed fanatics – we have work to do.


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