Article - The Dangers of Being a Good Project Manager


I want to share with you today a very interesting conversation that took  place more than 10 years ago when I was working for an international bank. At the time I was sitting side-by-side with another more junior project manager (let us call him Bob for the purposes of this story). Bob was a great guy and a very knowledgeable professional. Having said that he also was a product of a "command-style" management system and could easily yield to the requests like,

"There is really no point in wasting time on requirements document. I have sent you an e-mail outlining the high-level features of the projects. The technical guys should figure out the rest!"

Needless to say, he was in trouble. A lot. Missed deadlines, rework, angry stakeholders ... As a result he rarely was capable of handling more than two projects at once and could at all times be seen around the office with a very pained expression on his face.

One day when Bob was away, probably being yelled at in yet another one of the status update meetings, my boss - the director of our department - approached our cubicle.

D: Jamal, I wanted to talk to you about certain issues.

Me: OK, what is on your mind?

D: I can't say I am happy with your performance. You show up to work at 9 and leave at 5 ... This is not how our organization works ... Just look at Bob. He is here at 7 am every morning and rarely leaves the office before 8 pm. I have seen him coming to work on Saturdays, Sundays and even stat holidays! Why can't you be more like him?

Me: John, how many projects am I currently managing?

D: (counting on his fingers) Seven. Why do you ask?

Me: And how many of them are on-time and on-budget?

D: All of them! But that is not the point ...

Me: (interrupting) How many projects is Bob handling?

D: Two ...

Me: (snidely) And how many of them are in good shape?

D: (finally realizing where I am going) None! but that is not the point! You see, your projects are easy and his are difficult!

Me: (violently banging my head against the cubicle wall) John, you really think that his readiness to go into the testing phase WITHOUT finalized requirements specifications has nothing to do with the "difficulty" of his projects?

Have you ever had similar experiences?

About the Author

Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East.  Read Jamal’s Blog @

Jamal is an author of two very popular books: Delivering Exceptional Project Results: A Practical Guide to Project Selection, Scoping, Estimation and Management and Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects.

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