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Project Management Lessons Our Grandparents Taught Us!
By Kiron D. Bondale

What 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!

Kiron D. Bondale, PMP, PMI-RMP has managed multiple mid-to-large-sized technology and change management projects, and has worked in both internal and professional services project management capacities. He has setup and managed Project Management Offices (PMO) and has provided project portfolio management and project management consulting services to clients across multiple industries.

Kiron is an active member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and served as a volunteer director on the Board of the PMI Lakeshore Chapter for six years.

Kiron has published articles on Project and Project Portfolio Management in both project management-specific journals (PM Network, PMI-ISSIG journal, Projects & Profits) as well as industry-specific journals (ILTA Peer-to-peer). He has delivered almost a hundred webinar presentations on a variety of PPM and PM topics and has presented at multiple industry conferences including HIMSS, MISA and ProjectWorld. In addition to this blog, Kiron contributes articles on a monthly basis to ProjectTimes.com.

Kiron is a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organization change that addresses process & technology, but most important, people will maximize your chances for success. You can reach Kiron at kiron_bondale@yahoo.ca

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