Project management lessons our grandparents taught us!

grandparentWhat are the most impactful ways to learn about project management?

We tend to think of the experience (and scars) we’ve gained through managing multiple projects, the formal education we’ve taken and the certifications we have achieved.

No doubt, these are all contributors to our current competency, but we are underestimating how much valuable project management advice we received from our grandparents through old proverbs.

Here are just a few examples of what we’ve unconsciously learned about project management from previous generations.

A stitch in time saves nine – yes, that lingering low priority issue could probably go another week without being followed up on, but wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves – it does pay to review actual time logged by your team members even though that might seem administratively onerous!

Two wrongs don’t make a right – just because someone has used dirty politics to negatively impact your project doesn’t mean you should return the favor.

When in Rome, do as the Romans – there’s a good reason that “it depends” is usually the right answer when asked project management practice questions. How you manage a given project should never be solely dictated by enterprise methodology – it needs to take into account the context of the project, its constraints, and the team’s culture.

No man is an island – too many project managers feel they are responsible for making all the decisions on a project – you have a team so leverage it effectively.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst – effective risk management is critical to managing uncertainty, but don’t forget that there are opportunities as well as threats to be managed.

A picture is worth a thousand words – sure, a detailed, thousand page business requirements specification might fully capture the customer’s needs, but a working prototype might be a more effective means of ensuring you deliver what the customer wanted!

You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs – manage enough projects, and you’ll learn that you can either be nice or be effective, but it’s rare that a project manager can successfully be both all the time. Focus on being objective, fair and transparent, but recognize that you won’t be able to please everyone all of the time.

A watched pot never boils – micromanagement is bad, ’nuff said!

Too many cooks spoil the broth – the best argument I’ve heard for keeping team and meeting invitation list sizes small.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you – I get it, you’ve got a weak or distracted sponsor. Just remember, they are funding your project, so it’s in your best interests to stay on their good side. Similarly, if you don’t like your people manager, don’t pull an end run around him or her – it’ll usually come back to bite you.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – by all means, develop a project plan at the right level of detail for your control needs, but also have a plan B in your back-pocket for if and when things go wrong.

I’ll close out with one of my personal favorites which PMI should consider adding to their Code of Ethics: Honesty is the best policy!







Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Project management lessons our grandparents taught us!

  1. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs – this is one of the best advice I’ve ever been given especially when I apply this proverb to my career in project management. I completely agree that it’s very rare that one can be effective and nice at the same time. You’ll always find yourself in a position where almost everyone you work has something against you. But never let that stop you from doing the “right” thing or doing what is most important for the project or the initiative you’re undertaking.


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