By May 28, 2012 Read More →

Project Management Quotes

Project Management Quotes

This is my hand-crafted collection of project management quotes.  Even if you are not a project manager, you can borrow from the project management bag of tricks.

Project management is the art and science of making things happen.   The project manager leads a team on a journey (the project cycle), through trials and triumphs to realize a vision.

Along that journey, project management involves balancing tradeoffs between cost, time, and scope.   Along the way, it also involves communicating with stakeholders, influencing without authority, tracking and reporting status, tuning and pruning processes, and driving execution.  Project management includes managing risks and issues.  It also includes telling and selling the vision to get buy-in and support.

It’s one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever love.

I learned my project management skills on the job at Microsoft.  I’ve led distributed teams around the world on projects large and small.  It’s been the best of times, and the worst of times.  It’s been my area of greatest growth.  I’ve learned to value both the art and the science of project management.  When the rubber meets the road, it’s the art part  that makes the science work.

With that in mind, here is my collection of project management quotes.   Find three that you can use to help you flourish in work and in life.   Share them with a friend.

Top 10 Project Management Quotes

  1. “A {specification, design, procedure, test plan} that will not fit on one page cannot be understood.” – Mark Ardis
  2. “All things are created twice; first mentally; then physically.  The key to creativity is to begin with the end in mind, with a vision and a blue print of the desired result.” — Stephen Covey
  3. “Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” — Will Rogers
  4. “No matter how good the team or how efficient the methodology, if we’re not solving the right problem, the project fails.” –- Woody Williams
  5. “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra.” — H.E. Luccock
  6. “Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating the talents of those who work for us and pointing them towards a certain goal.” — Walt Disney
  7. “Planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal.” — Cornelius Fitchner
  8. “Trying to manage a project without project management is like trying to play a football game without a game plan.” — K. Tate
  9. “We will either find a way, or make one.” –– Hannibal
  10. “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” — Audre Lorde

What is Project Management and What Do Project Managers Do

  • “Being a Project Manager is like being an artist, you have the different colored process streams combining into a work of art” -– Greg Cimmarrusti
  • “Operations keeps the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward.” — Joy Gumz
  • “Project management can be defined as a way of developing structure in a complex project, where the independent variables of time, cost, resources and human behavior come together.” -– Rory Burke
  • “Project management is like juggling three balls – time, cost and quality. Program management is like a troupe of circus performers standing in a circle, each juggling-three balls and swapping balls from time to time.” — G. Reiss
  • “Project management is the art of creating the illusion that any outcome is the result of a series of predetermined, deliberate acts when, in fact, it was dumb luck.” –-  Harold Kerzner
  • “Project managers function as bandleaders who pull together their players each a specialist with individual score and internal rhythm. Under the leader’s direction, they all respond to the same beat.” — L.R. Sayles
  • “Project managers rarely lack organisational visibility, enjoy considerable variety in their day- to-day duties, and often have the prestige associated with work on the enterprise’s high- priority objectives.” –- Meredith and Mantel
  • “The P in PM is as much about ‘people management’ as it is about ‘project management’.” -– Cornelius Fichtner
  • “The project manager is expected to integrate all aspects of the project, ensure that the proper knowledge and resources are available when and where needed, and above all, ensure that the expected results are produced in a timely, cost- effective manner.” -– Meredith and Mantel
  • “The project manager must be able to develop a fully integrated information and control system to plan, instruct, monitor and control large amounts of data, quickly and accurately to facilitate the problem-solving and decision- making process.” –- Rory Burke
  • “Whilst you can practice good project management without EVM, you cannot practice EVM effectively without good project management.” — Steve Crowther
  • “Why do so many professionals say they are project managing, when what they are actually doing is fire fighting?” -– Colin Bentley

Action and Tasks

  • “A task is not done until it is done.” -– Louis Frie
  • “Add little to little and there will be a big pile” –- Ovid
  • “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” —  Friedrich Engels
  • “Each completed task establishes certain parameters and imposes constraints on the next task.” -– Louis Fried
  • “He has half the deed done who has made a beginning.” – Horace
  • “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” — Mario Andretti
  • “Momentum is a fragile force. Its worst enemy: procrastination. Its best friend: a deadline (think Election Day). Implication no. 1 (and there is no no. 2): Get to work! NOW!” -– Tom Peters
  • “Pharmaceutical projects are like fresh fruit – they depreciate if they are not tended to, and they do poorly if sitting on the shelf with long periods of inactivity.” — R. Burns
  • “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” — Peter Drucker
  • “Some things are better done than described.” –- Hunt and Thomas
  • “To get a project off the ground, tell a colleague it was their idea. They will put their heart and soul into making it successful.” — T. Wouhra
  • “Working ten hour days allows you to fall behind twice as fast as you could working five hour days.” -– Issac Assimov

Change and Change Management

  • “Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.” –- Samuel Johnson
  • “Event management is the same as for any project – the project plan needs to include an appropriate change control process.” — Brenda Treasure
  • “It is always easier to talk about change than to make it.” — Alvin Toffler
  • “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things.” –- Machiavelli
  • “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” –- George Bernard Shaw

Communication

  • “Data is like garbage.  You’d better know what you are going to do with it before you collect it.” — Mark Twain
  • “Don’t use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, but equally don’t agree important things informally where there is a chance of a disagreement later over what was agreed.” -– Colin Bentley
  • “Ensure your documentation is short and sharp and make much more use of people-to-people communication.” -– Bentley and Borman
  • “If it is not documented, it doesn’t exist.  As long information is retained in someone’s head, it is vulnerable to loss.” -– Louis Fried
  • “Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “Reconnaissance memoranda should always be written in the simplest style and be purely descriptive. They should never stray from their objective by introducing extraneous ideas.” –- Napoleon Bonaparte
  • “The conditions attached to a promise are forgotten and the promise is remembered.” -– Edwards, Butler, Hill and Russell
  • “What is not on paper has not been said.” – Anonymous
  • “Unengaged sponsor sinks the ship.” – Angela Waner

Failure and Learning

  • “I have witnessed boards that continued to waste money on doomed projects because no one was prepared to admit they were failures, take the blame and switch course. Smaller outfits are more willing to admit mistakes and dump bad ideas.” — Luke Johnson
  • “If an IT project works the first time, it was a very small and simple project.” -– Cornelius Fitchner
  • “If an IT project works the first time, it was in your nightly dreams. Time to wake up and get to work.” –- Cornelius Fitchner
  • “If you always blame others for your mistakes, you will never improve.” — Joy Gumz
  • “If you have never recommended canceling a project, you haven’t been an effective project manager.” -– Woody Williams
  • “In NASA, we never punish error. We only punish the concealment of error.” — Al Siepert
  • “In poorly run projects, problems can go undetected until the project fails. It’s like the drip … drip … drip of an leaky underground pipe. Money is being lost, but you don’t see it until there is an explosion.” — Joy Gumz
  • “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” – James Thurber
  • “It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.” -– Winston Churchill
  • “Know when to cut your losses if necessary. Don’t let your desire to succeed be the enemy of good judgment. If Napoleon had left Moscow immediately, he may have returned with a salvageable army.” -– Jerry Manas
  • “No major project is ever installed on time, within budget, with the same staff that started it.” -– Edwards, Butler, Hill and Russell
  • “Skills can be learned while experience must be earned.” — Joy Gumz
  • What we learn from lessons learned is that we don?t learn from lessons learned.” — T. Block

Plans and Planning

  • “A good plan can help with risk analyses but it will never guarantee the smooth running of the project.” -– Bentley and Borman
  • “A project without a critical path is like a ship without a rudder.” — D. Meyer
  • “A well-constructed project management workshop should give people a solid foundation to build on.” -– Bentley and Borman
  • “For a project plan to be effective it must equally address the parameters of ‘activity time’ and ‘activity logic’. This logical relationship is required to model the effect schedule variance will have down stream in the project.” -– Rory Burke
  • “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” –- Fred Brooks
  • “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” -– Peter Drucker
  • “Plans are worthless, but planning is invaluable.” -— Peter Drucker
  • “Running a project without a WBS is like going to a strange land without a roadmap.” — J. Phillips
  • “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” -— Goethe
  • “This ad hoc approach to project management – coupled as it frequently is, with an on-the-job training philosophy – is pervasive. It is also pernicious.” — Jack Meredith
  • “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes … but no plans.” -– Peter Drucker
  • “What is truth today may be falsehood tomorrow. Never confuse your plan with truth.” -– Woody Williams
  • “When the territory and the map disagree, believe the territory.” — Swiss Army Manual
  • “You can’t keep it all in your head. Project control tools are an absolute necessity for the control of large projects.” -– Louis Fried

Process

  • “An intelligent person armed with a checklist is no substitute for experience.” — Joy Gumz
  • “At times, project managers seem to forget that many of the conventional forms, charts, and tables that they must fill out are intended to serve as aids, not punishments.” — Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, and Sutton
  • “Before anything can be repeatable or reusable, it must be usable.” -– Woody Williams
  • “Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.” –- Sun Tzu
  • “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” — W. Edwards Deming
  • “It is not a question of how well each process works; the question is how well they all work together.” — Lloyd Dobyns and Clare Crawford-Mason
  • “Process for process sake is not good for goodness sake.” — Lynn A. Edmark
  • “You can only elevate individual performance by elevating that of the entire system.” — W. Edwards Deming

Project Cycle

  • “A project is complete when it starts working for you, rather than you working for it.” -– Scott Allen
  • “‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end; then stop.’” — Lewis Carroll
  • “Like organic entities, projects have life cycles. From a slow beginning they progress to a buildup of size, then peak, begin a decline, and finally must be terminated. (Also, like other organic entities, they often resist termination.)” –- Meredith and Mantel

Quality

  • “External audits are routine in the financial area. I fail to understand why nonprofits don’t use them more in the vital program area.” — E. Stoesz
  • “Testing proves the presence of bugs but not their absence.” –- Woody Williams
  • “The testers won’t break the system but the user who thinks the cd-rom drive as a drinks holder will.” –- Cornelius Fitchner
  • “There are two types of software : bad software and the next release.” –- Cornelius Fitchner
  • “When debugging, novices insert corrective code; experts remove defective code.” –- Richard Pattis
  • “When end users get involved in the final stages of testing, light bulbs go on, and they often have an “aha” moment. Unfortunately, that is often too late.” — Frank R. Parth

Rewards and Recognition

  • “Good leaders do not take on all the work themselves; neither do they take all the credit.” –- Woody Williams
  • “If, on your team, everyone’s input is not encouraged, valued, and welcome, why call it a team?” -– Woody Williams
  • “Lavish credit on anyone and everyone who helped you the least bit.” -– Tom Peters
  • “Rewards and motivation are an oil change for project engines. Do it regularly and often.” -– Woody Williams
  • “True motivation comes from achievement, personal development, job satisfaction, and recognition.” — Frederick Herzberg

Risks and Risk Management

  • “Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.” — Wethern’s Law of Suspended Judgement
  • “PMs are the most creative pros in the world; we have to figure out everything that could go wrong, before it does.” –- Fredrik Haren
  • “Project proposals, business cases or cost benefit analyses are probably being massaged (either by underestimating costs or timeframes or by being very optimistic about the benefits) so projects will be approved.” -– Bentley and Borman
  • “When a risk occurs, with some ingenuity, this may open up an opportunity, and conversely when pursuing an opportunity there will be associated risks. Risks are generally deemed acceptable if the possible gains exceed the possible losses.” –- Rory Burke

Schedule and Time

  • “Beware the time-driven project with an artificial deadline.” — M. Dobson
  • “It is useless to desire more time if you are already wasting what little you have.” -— James Allen
  • “Projects progress quickly until they become 90% complete; then remain at 90% complete forever.” -– Edwards, Butler, Hill and Russell
  • “The functional groups should not be allowed to stretch out the project for the sake of improvement, refinement, or the investigation of the most remote potential risk.” -– Meredith and Mantel
  • “There is nothing more perishable than an airline seat – unless it is time on a project.” — Joy Gumz
  • “You may con a person into committing to an unreasonable deadline, but you cannot bully them into meeting it.” -– Edwards, Butler, Hill, and Russell

Scope, Deliverables, and Impact

  • “Don’t do anything you don’t have to do.” -– Louis Fried
  • “Make an extensive table of project ‘deliverables’. Label one column ‘as requested’. Create another column labeled ‘could be’. Make each ‘could be’ wild and woolly!” –- Tom Peters
  • “My personal philosophy is not to undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.” — Edwin Land
  • “Our focus on meaningful projects means serving a useful social purpose while generating high-quality profits.” — Masimi Iijima

Teams and Leaders

  • “Any Idiot can point out a problem …. A leader is willing to do something about it! Leaders solve problems!” -– Tony Robbins
  • “As has been taught to teachers of the Harvard Business School, the art of asking good questions is often the most important element of managerial tasks.” -– Parte Bose
  • “Get the right people. Then no matter what all else you might do wrong after that, the people will save you. That’s what management is all about.” -– Tom DeMarco
  • “If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking.” -– General George Patton Jr.
  • “Innovative efforts should never report to line managers charged with responsibility for ongoing operations. The new project is an infant and will remain one for the foreseeable future, and infants belong in the nursery. The ‘adults’, that is, the executives in charge of existing businesses or products will have neither the time nor understanding for the infant.” — Peter Drucker
  • “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” — Peter F. Drucker
  • “Most success depends on colleagues, on the team. People at the top have large egos, but you must never say ‘I': it’s always ‘we’.” — Frank Lampl
  • “Nobody knows how Honda is organized, except that it uses lots of project teams and is quite flexible.” — Kenichi Ommae
  • “Some of the most flowery praise you hear on the subject of teams is only hypocrisy. Managers learn to talk a good game about teams even when they’re secretly threatened by the whole concept.” -– Tom DeMarco
  • “The real problem is what to do with problem solvers after the problem is solved.” –- Gay Talese
  • “We cannot drive people; we must direct their development. Teach and lead.” –- Woody Williams
  • “What we are looking for is managers who are awake enough to alter the world as they find it, to make it harmonize with what they and their people are trying to accomplish.” –- Tom DeMarco
  • “Whatever we do must be in accord with human nature. We cannot drive people; we must direct their development.  The general policy of the past has been to drive; but the era of force must give way to the era of knowledge, and the policy of the future will be to teach and lead, to the advantage of all concerned.” — Henry L. Gantt
  • “You can’t turn a herd of turtles into a twenty-mule work team.” — L. Todryk

Vision

  • “All things are created twice; first mentally; then physically.  The key to creativity is to begin with the end in mind, with a vision and a blue print of the desired result.” — Stephen Covey
  • “Effective leaders help others to understand the necessity of change and to accept a common vision of the desired outcome.” — John Kotter
  • “Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.” — Henry Miller
  • “Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.” — Arthur Schopenhauer
  • “First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” –- Napoleon Hill
  • “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” — Jack Welch
  • “He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear with almost any ‘how’.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
  • “I think there is something, more important than believing: Action! The world is full of dreamers, there aren’t enough who will move ahead and begin to take concrete steps to actualize their vision.” — W. Clement Stone
  • “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton
  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” -— Albert Einstein
  • “It’s easy to see, hard to foresee.” — Benjamin Franklin
  • “Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” — Gail Devers
  • “People are more inclined to be drawn in if their leader has a compelling vision. Great leaders help people get in touch with their own aspirations and then will help them forge those aspirations into a personal vision.” — John Kotter
  • “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” — John C. Maxwell
  • “Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.” — Joel Barker
  • “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” — Jonathan Swift
  • “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” — Audre Lorde
  • “With vision there is no room to be frightened., No reason for intimidation. It’s time to march forward! Let’s be confident and positive!” — Charles R. Swindoll

Arm yourself with your favorite project management quotes.  Use the principles, patterns, and practices you learn from project management to make things happen in your work … and in your life.

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5 Comments on "Project Management Quotes"

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  1. Ricardo Clerigo says:

    Great collection of quotes!

    My favourite new one: “Project management can be defined as a way of developing structure in a complex project, where the independent variables of time, cost, resources and human behavior come together.” -– Rory Burke”

    Thanks JD!

  2. JD says:

    @ Ricardo — Thank you.

    The mash up is where the magic happens. What I’ve learned is always bet on the people, and the way to do that is to empower them to spend more time in their strengths.

  3. Andy says:

    Awesome collection of quotes – what is interesting is the number of quotes from “non-project managers” as there are project managers, but are faced with project situations … it shows that everybody needs to develop some degree of project management skills …

    My favourite is actually this one ..

    “The P in PM is as much about ‘people management’ as it is about ‘project management’.” -– Cornelius Fichtner

    If you don’t mind I am going to use that as one of the “headlines” on my site..

    Keep up the good work

  4. Great PM Quotes !

    I liked many but the best quotes was ….“The P in PM is as much about ‘people management’ as it is about ‘project management’.” -– Cornelius Fichtner