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Evil Alter Egos: Episode 3 – Mr. Promise (#3 in the series Evil Alter Egos)
By Thomas Cutting

So far we dealt with Mr. Genius by clueing him in to what everyone else already knows: he doesn’t have all the answers. Then we overcame Ms. Bellows by dealing with the root causes and calming down. But Mr. Promise seems like he would be a great guy to have around. How could he possibly be evil?

Unfortunately, Mr. Promise is extremely dangerous, both to his own career and to his projects. The only thing worse than not keeping all of the promises he makes is when he actually attempts to. If he breaks a promise people get mad and he will eventually get fired. In an attempt to keep every promise his project is likely to either go way over budget or far beyond schedule. To curb this alter ego you need to pick, protect, track and close.

Pick your promises appropriately. Just because something sounds like a good idea doesn’t mean it should be tackled. Even if a task needs to be done it doesn’t mean it should become your responsibility or be added to your project. Granted, if you are the expert and have the time go ahead and volunteer. If not, allow someone else to step up. One trick is to simply wait quietly. The silence may encourage someone else to take it on.

Protect the project. Check the request against the scope of the project. If it passes that test then check the budget and schedule to see if it can be included. Use the Change Management process to authorize and fund it. Even if you give an enhancement away, the recipient should know what it is worth.

Track your promises. The big items that are handled through Change Management are easy to track. It is those annoying little ones that are made during meetings and in casual conversations that tend to trip us up. Make sure you document and track them as action items. For meetings, use minutes with a section for recording action items. Assign both a resource and a due date for each action item and check the progress at the next meeting.

Close them out. When a promise is met, make sure to loop back and let the requestor know it is completed. In some cases they may not even remember asking for it. The follow up will give them a chance to verify it is what they expected and will bring closure to the request.

Mr. Promise’s desire to help is honorable and with these simple steps we can keep him from destroying himself.

Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge ( and is a speaker, writer, trainer and mentor. He offers nearly random Project Management insights from a very diverse background that covers entertainment, retail, insurance, banking, healthcare and automotive verticals. He delivers real world, practical lessons learned with a twist of humor. Thomas has spoken at PMI and PSQT Conferences and is a regular contributor to several Project Management sites. He has a blog at

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