While there’s probably a little Homer Simpson in all of us (especially when faced with a “forbidden doughnut”), he has spouted off some witticisms that provide some lessons learned for project managers!
- “Well, it’s 1 a.m. Better go home and spend some quality time with the kids.” While project managers are notorious for burning the candle at both ends, work-life balance is important as sooner or later, you will have no more (work) projects to manage.
- “I want to share something with you: The three little sentences that will get you through life. Number 1: Cover for me. Number 2: Oh, good idea, Boss! Number 3: It was like that when I got here. ” All great examples of what Neal Whitten would call project managers being too soft.
- “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.” Failures are not what makes us, it’s how we handle failures that makes us. Project managers who get jaded or disillusioned after experiencing project failure are doing themselves and their organizations a disservice.
- “I’m normally not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me Superman.” Faith is good, but project managers need to leverage some earthly sources as well! Having developed good relationships with your sponsors and stakeholders and (hopefully) having a mentor or two can provide you with multiple layers to your support “onion”!
- “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do? ” Flexibility with regards to procedures and practices is important. Applying a project management methodology rigidly regardless of the scale or complexity of a project will likely result in frustration and resistance from your team and your stakeholders.
- “What do we need a psychiatrist for? We know our kid is nuts. ” Even if you have specific expertise into a decision or issue, project management is about using the right skills from your team to the right problem at the right time. Too many project managers take on too much decision making by themselves and undermine the skills and roles of their team members.
- “Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that.” Yes, statistics can be wrong some of the time, but failing to use quantitative project performance metrics means you will likely be wrong 100% of the time when monitoring your projects.
- “How is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?” Project managers (especially seasoned ones) can sometimes become complacent about their own professional development. While there’s a lot to be learned from the “school of hard knocks”, the profession is evolving with research across multiple knowledge areas and a project manager who refuses to spend some time on knowledge enrichment is setting themselves up for obsolescence.
- “If something goes wrong at the plant, blame the guy who can’t speak English.” Scapegoats exist in all companies, and it’s often convenient (and easy) to blame project failure on one. Professionalism comes from taking responsibility for project outcomes.
- “If something’s hard to do, then it’s not worth doing” Applying many of the hard and soft project management competencies is not easy – this doesn’t mean that you jettison them as soon as things get tough. To quote Kennedy “…not only because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…“
However, after 22 years, there is one Homer Simpson quote that is applicable to all project managers “All my life I’ve had one dream, to achieve my many goals.”