Project Proverbs

Project Proverbs


  • The same work under the same conditions will be estimated differently by ten different estimators, or by one estimator at ten different times
  • The most valuable and least used word in a project manager's vocabulary is "NO"
  • You can con a sucker into committing to an unreasonable deadline, but you can't bully him into meeting it
  • The more ridiculous the deadline, the more it costs to meet it
  • The more desperate the situation, the more optimistic the situatee
  • Too few people on a project can't solve the problem - too many create more problems than they solve
  • You can freeze the clients specifications, but he won't stop expecting
  • Frozen specifications and the abominable snowman are alike :- they both are myths, and they both melt when sufficient heat is applied
  • The conditions attached to a promise are forgotten, and the promise is remembered
  • What you don't know hurts you
  • A client will tell you anything you ask - but nothing more
  • Of several possible interpretations of a communication, the least convenient one is the only correct one
  • What is not on paper has not been said
  • No major project is ever installed on time, within budget, and with the same staff that started it
  • Projects progress quickly until they become 95% complete; then they remain at 95% complete forever
  • If project content is allowed to change freely, then the rate of change will soon exceed the rate of progress
  • No major system is ever completely debugged; attempts to debug a system inevitably introduce new bugs that are even harder to find
  • Project teams detest progress reporting because it vividly demonstrates their lack of progress
  • There's never enough time to do it right first time but there's always enough time to go back and do it again.
  • If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.
  • A little risk management saves a lot of fan cleaning.
  • The sooner you get behind schedule, the more time you have to make it up.
  • A badly planned project will take three times longer than expected - a well planned project only twice as long as expected.
  • When all's said and done a lot more is said than done.
  • If at first you don't succeed, remove all evidence you ever tried.
  • The more you plan the luckier you get.
  • Good project management is not so much knowing what to do and when, as knowing what excuses to give and when.
  • Everyone asks for a strong project manager - when they get him they don't want him.
  • Overtime is a figment of the naïve project manager's imagination.
  • All project managers face problems on Monday mornings - good project managers are working on next Monday's problems.
  • Never underestimate the ability of senior management to buy a bad idea and fail to buy a good idea.
  • If it wasn't for the 'last minute' nothing would get done.
  • Meetings are where minutes are kept and hours are lost.
  • Good project managers don't solve problems, they get rid of them.
  • If you want to make Murphy laugh: have a definite plan.
  • If everything seems to be going well, you obviously don't know what's going on (Edward Murphy).
  • The plan is nothing. Planning is everything (President Dwight D. Eisenhower)
  • "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." - Albert Einstein
  • "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." - Albert Einstein


Project Management Laws


  • If it can go wrong it will - Murphy's law.
  • If it can't possibly go wrong, it will - O'Malley's corollary to Murphy's law.
  • It will go wrong in the worst possible way - Sod's law.
  • Work expands to fill the time available for its completion - Parkinson's law.
  • Finely chopped cabbage in mayonnaise - Coleslaw.
  • If there is a 50% chance of something going wrong then 9 times out of 10 it will.
  • A two year project will take three years, a three year project will never finish - (anyone know who's law this is?)
  • Murphy, O'Malley, Sod and Parkinson are alive and well - and working on your project
  • Matzen's law. “For every function, there is an equal and opposite malfunction.”


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Projects Management Definitions



A gambler who never gets to shuffle, cut or deal


Tender Opening

 A poker game in which the losing hand wins


A wild guess carried out to two decimal places


Successful bidder

A contractor who is wondering what he left out

In-house estimate

The cost of construction in heaven  

Project Manager

The conductor in an orchestra in which every musician is playing a different tune


Construction claim

The contractor’s guess at the amount of money needed to transform a net loss into a gross profit


Critical Path Method

A management technique for losing your shirt under perfectly controlled conditions


 An effort to increase egg production by strangling the chicken


Delayed payment

 A tourniquet applied at the pockets


Completion date

A point at which liquidated damages begin


Liquidated damages

A penalty for failing to achieve the impossible



People who go in after the battle is lost and bayonet the wounded



People who go in after the auditors and strip the bodies

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