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Project Management

Many IT projects (and their management) are running out of budget, are not meeting their deadlines, or are not delivering what has been agreed on. Despite of a lot of professional help, the IT sector as a whole, and especially the project management of IT projects, seems to be immune to advice from other sectors or to a self-regulatory change of behavior (based on experience and lessons learned)

The following examples about project management, have an aspect of humor, but also a lot of truth to them.

ISO 9000 "Quality" Definition
"Degree to which a set of inherent characteristic fulfills requirements"
Remark: By this definition "quality" is always relative to a set of requirements.

Tips & Tricks - Project Management

A "Book of Rules" from the people who got their job done!!!

But no one from the IT departments all over the world seems to read these valuable tips & tricks.


At an official NASA web page, Jerry Madden a retired employee of the Goddard Space Flight Center, collected over 100 "lessons learned" about project management. Some of the "lessons learned" are specific to the space industry or goverment issues. However, there are certainly some good nuggets in the lot, which apply to project management in broader terms.

005. A manager who is his own systems engineer or financial manager is one who will probably try to do open heart surgery on himself.

015. Wrong decisions made early can be salvaged, but "right" decisions made late cannot.

016. Never make excuses; instead, present plans of actions to be taken.

020. Managers who rely on the paperwork to do the reporting of activities are known failures.

021. Not all successful managers are competent and not all failed managers are incompetent. Luck still plays a part in success or failure, but luck favors the competent, hard-working manager.

027. Documentation does not take the place of knowledge. There is a great difference in what is supposed to be, what is thought to have been, and what the reality is. Documents are normally a static picture in time which is outdated rapidly.

034. People have reasons for doing things the way they do them. Most people want to do a good job, and if they don't, the problem is they probably don't know how or exactly what is expected.

036. A puzzle is hard to discern from just one piece, so don't be surprised if team members deprived of information reach the wrong conclusion.

037. Reviews are for the reviewed and not the reviewer. The review is a failure if the reviewed learn nothing from it.

041. Management principles are still the same. It is just the tools that have changed. You still should find the right people to do the work and get out of the way so they can do

042. It is mainly the incompetent that don't like to show off their work.

047. NASA Management Instructions (NMI's) are written by another NASA employee like yourself; therefore, challenge them if they don't make sense. It is possible another NASA employee will rewrite them or waive them for you.

048. A working meeting has about six people attending. Meetings larger than this are for information transfer.

049. Being friendly with a contractor is fine — being a friend of a contractor is dangerous to your objectivity.

054. All problems are solvable in time, so make sure you have enough schedule contingency - if you don't, the next project manager that takes your place will.

060. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. It is also occasionally the best help you can give. Just listening is all that is needed on many occasions. You may be the boss but, if you constantly have to solve someone's problems, you are working for him.

065. Integrity means your subordinates trust you.

071. NASA is establishing a set of reviewers and a set of reviews. Once firmly established, the system will fight to stay alive, so make the most of it. Try to find a way for the reviews to work for you.

075. A scientific proposal takes about 9 months to put together. It takes NASA HQ about 9 months to a year to select the winning proposals. Then, it takes 3 to 4 years to sell the program. This means 5 to 6 years after the initial thoughts, the real work starts. Managers, for some strange reason, do not understand why a scientist wants to build something different than proposed. Managers are strange people.

083. People who monitor work and don't help get it done, never seem to know exactly what is going on.

090. The seeds of problems are laid down early. Initial planning is the most vital part of a project. Review of most failed projects or of project problems indicates that the disasters were well planned to happen from the start.

094. Whoever said beggars can't be choosers doesn't understand project management. Many times it is better to trust to luck than to get known poor support.

096. There is only one solution to a weak project manager in industry — get rid of him fast. The main job of a project manager in industry is to keep the customer happy. Make sure the one working with you knows that "on schedule, on cost, and a good product"--not flattery--is all that makes you happy.

097. Talk is not cheap. The best way to understand a personnel or technical problem is to talk to the right people. Lack of talk at the right levels is deadly.

098. Projects require teamwork to succeed. Remember most teams have a coach and not a boss, but the coach still has to call some of the plays.

106. In political decisions, do not look for logic - look for politics.

108. In dealing with international partners, the usual strategy is to go 1 day early, meet with your counterpart, discuss all issues to be brought up at a meeting, arrive at an agreeable response (or a decision to table the issue for later discussion), and agree not to take any firm positions on any new issues brought up at the meeting. This makes it appear to the rest of the world that you and your counterpart are of one mind and that the work is in good hands. All disputes are held behind closed doors with the minimum number of participants.

112. Meetings, meetings - A Projects Manager's staff meeting should last 5 minutes - minimum/1 hour max - Less than 5 minutes and you probably didn't need the meeting - longer than 1 hour, it becomes a bull session.

115. Reviews, meetings, and reality have little in common.

128. The project manager who is the smartest man on his project has done a lousy job of recruitment.

20 signs you don’t want that project

Jeffrey Zeldman, pointing out, that most clients are great clients, has a list of 20 points (all taken from real life), which indicate that the project is about to fail. Here are just a few signs:


08. As get-acquainted meeting is about to wrap, the guy at the end of the table, who has been quiet for an hour and 55 minutes, suddenly opens his mouth.

10. Client announces that he is a “vision guy,” and will not be involved in the “minutia” of designing the website. He announces that his employee, the client contact, will be “fully empowered” to approve each deliverable.

15.Client sends a 40-page RFP, including committee-approved flow diagrams created in Microsoft Art.

16. Client tells you he has conducted a usability study with his wife.

20. Client wants the best. Once you tell him what the best costs, he asks if you can scale back. You craft a scaled-back proposal, but, without disclosing a budget or even hinting at what might be viable for him, the client asks if you can scale it down further. After you’ve put 40 hours into back-and-forth negotiation, client asks if you can’t design just the home page in Photoshop.