Article - Top 7 Dumb Things Executives Say About Project and Portfolio Management


Throughout my consulting and training engagement I frequently came across outrageous statements made by various company executives about both project management and project portfolio management. Today I want to provide you with a collections of all these pearls of wisdom and provide my (at times not very politically correct) answers to them.  

So, without further ado, here we go with top seven dumb statements from executives:

Dumb Thing #1: "I am not sure why we are failing with our projects! After all we have MS Project installed on every desktop in the office"

Having MS Project or any other project management software installed on your computers won't do jacksh*t for you if you don't have proper skills, methodologies and processes implemented at your company. It is like picking up a random person off the street, giving him a Stradivari violin and expecting him to perform at Niccolo Paganini's level of without any training or guidance. Or how about buying a random guy a pair of most expensive soccer boots and the and the most advanced ball and expecting the person to instantaneously become the next Lionel Messi ?

Dumb Thing #2: We have a lot of receptionists sitting around doing nothing. Why don't we put them through a 2-day project management course and we can assign our (multimillion) projects to them? By the way, any chance you can cut the length of your workshop to one day?

No, I can't! And you need to realize that a project manager capable of running a multimillion dollar project is an accomplished professional with years of training, education and progressive experience. Putting a receptionist through a 2-day PM course may open her eyes to discover the exciting world of project management, but will most definitely not prepare her to run complex multimillion dollar projects.

Dumb Thing #3: "My department heads constantly bitch whine about lack of resources and excess of projects. They keep asking to provide them with additional manpower and to prioritize our initiatives ... How do I make them work harder?"

Your department heads are probably complaining for a reason. By the way, if you don't trust them, you probably need to have a conversation with the head of your recruitment department. In any case you have to seriously consider either providing them with additional resources (both human and financial) or prioritizing and cutting some of your projects.

Dumb Thing #4: “Yes, we do have issues with our projects, but how do I know that project management  is the right answer?”

Well, genius, what else can you propose? If the fact that NASA, British Petroleum, Microsoft, Apple, and thousands of other successful businesses have been tackling their project issues with the help of project management does not convince you that it might be a good idea, what else can do you have in mind?

Dumb Thing #5: "Project manager is not a leadership position. He is just a dude who collects reports from all the project team members and submits them to the executives"

Really?! Last time I checked project manager (according to the Project Management Institute, at least) was a person responsible for scope, time, cost, quality, communications, human resources, risk, procurement and stakeholder management on her project. If you can accomplish all of that by "just collecting reports and passing them on to the executives",  I would like to apply for a project management position at your company.

Dumb Thing #6: "Why do we need to prioritize our projects? This implies that some of our initiatives will be labeled as "low-priority endeavors" and this is not acceptable!"

Again, what is the alternative you are proposing? Executives ALWAYS have more ideas than resources available. It is a normal, moreover, a desired trait ... What can one do without project prioritization? You can beat your people with sticks and hang posters about "working in dynamic and fast-paced environments". This may work in the short term, but will always fail in the long run.

Dumb Thing #7: "We, executives, do not have time to participate in the portfolio management committee ... Can we delegate this task to someone else?"

Well, you already have a whole bunch of receptionists trained in project management from point 2; why don't we assign the selection and prioritization of the most important company initiatives to them?

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.