project manager

Article - How to Explain the Value of Project Management in One Simple Example


Unfortunately, even today I frequently come across the situations when a (typically) gray-haired executive asks me the following question:

CEO: Yes, Jamal, I have heard about project management and all that. But I am still not sold on it. Can you explain to me – and I only have a couple of minutes - the value someone like you brings to the organization?

Me: (unexpectedly) Ever cooked a meal?

CEO: (very surprised) Yes… But what does that have to…

Me: Imagine that you need to fry a couple of eggs. Would you use a shopping list and step-by-step cooking instructions to accomplish this task?

CEO: No, of course not. That is a very simple process.

Me: Exactly! Get a couple of eggs, some butter, salt, pepper and a frying pan. Easy, right?

CEO: Yes!

Me: Now imagine you need to cook a fancy five-course meal for ten of your friends. Do you think you will benefit from a detailed shopping list and comprehensive cooking instructions?

CEO: Yes! Probably…

Me: Since you only have one stove and a pair of hands, do you think you will need to plan all of your cooking tasks in such a way that you don’t end up with a cold steak and undercooked potatoes by the time your guests arrive?

CEO: I guess so…

Me: (loudly) That is exactly what we do. We define the scope in detail, confirm that you have all the ingredients and time your tasks in such a way that you get the entire product at the deadline (inaudibly) I guess, we will chat about risks, costs, quality and other project management knowledge areas some other time.

Do you still have to justify the existence of project management to your stakeholders? What tricks/examples do you use? Please leave your comments below.

Jamal’s Musings – Where to Find a Project Manager for Our Enterprise (Multidepartmental) Project?

I once taught a one-day project management workshop for a group of executives of a large international bank. The people present in the room were the CEO, COO, CMO, CIO, VP of HR and the CFO. We started discussing how the projects that only ten years ago were pure IT initiatives now have grown and span across the entire organization and involved resources from every department. An interesting exchange took place between me and the CEO of the company:

CEO: Yes, all you are saying about the importance of project management is very interesting, but we have decided long ago that our organization simply can’t assign a project manager to run an enterprise project.

Me: How so?

CEO: Well, here is our logical chain of thought. The project manager must be a technical expert in the domain of his project. Our projects, as was mentioned earlier, span across multiple departments including, finance, accounting, payments, risk, HR, marketing, etc. Since we can’t find a person who would be an expert in all these domains (frankly, I don’t think such person even exists in the entire world), we can’t have a project manager assigned to the project. We will have to rely on the departments coordinating the activities among themselves …

Me: OK, I understand you reasoning … With you permission, can we look at this problem from a different perspective?

CEO: Sure!

Me: Do you think that the people sitting in this room are qualified to run your company?

CEO: (surprised) Of course! Every one of the executives present here has my full vote of confidence!

Me: Let us start with you then. What is your background?

CEO: Sales and marketing.

Me: Which implies you can’t be considered an expert in the areas of finance, accounting, payments, risk and IT, right? So, using your logic, how can you run the company if you are not an expert in all these areas?

CEO: But I have specialists in all those areas reporting to me and I rely on their expert opinions when making decisions …

Article - Top 10 Ways the Project Manager’s Psyche is Different from that of a Normal Person

Through my years of hands-on project management work, consulting and training engagements I frequently noticed that project managers – or as I jokingly refer to them, “homo projectus” – at times have a very different perspective on things than “normal” people. So, below I took the liberty of documenting some of the situations where project manager’s psyche appears to be quite different from that of the human beings surrounding him.


  1. Estimate is a range, not a single number – While many of us regard the notion of estimate fairly casually, freely using phrases like, “I think I will be done with this task in three hours”, or “I have budgeted $10,000 for the kitchen renovation project”, real project managers never provide single-number estimates due to inherent risks and uncertainties of any project. Instead they always provide their estimates in ranges.

    For example, a good project manager will say something to the effect of, “We think we can finish our home renovation in between two to three weeks”.

  2. Estimates, Targets, Commitments – while these three words are frequently used as synonyms by the “normal” people, project managers know that there are distinct differences between these three terms. When they estimate, they usually answer questions like, “How much will it cost us to do Task A?”

    When they target, they attempt to provide the answers to questions like, “Can we build these features by 15-Nov-2015?” And finally commitment sounds like, “We are 90% sure that we can deliver this project in four months”

  3. Estimates vs. Probabilities – unlike regular people good project managers know that these two concepts are strongly correlated. For example, when a resource says, “On average this task should take me five days to accomplish”, the project manager is usually the only person in the room who knows that the probability of finishing this task on-time is only 50% (see Figure 1).

Jamal's Musings:Who is a Project Manager and What are His Responsibilities?

Despite the fact that the role of project manager has been “institutionalized” by many respected international organizations including the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the International Project Management Association (IPMA) there are still a lot of confusion associated with this profession.

In my consulting career I have encountered the following perceptions about the role of the project manager:


Project manager is not really a profession. Every technical person working for our company should have the skills required to manage projects. I should have the freedom to point to an accountant (developer, marketing analyst, engineer, designer, etc.) and say, “Mary, I am assigning this project to you!”


Project manager is really an administrative worker, whose job is to collect project updates from various team members, send e-mails, take meeting notes and maintain the project schedule in the project management software.


Project manager is a very senior member of the executive team who is responsible for both tactical (i.e. delivery on time and on budget) and strategic (delivering value to the organization) success of the project.


Let us take a look at the real responsibilities of the project manager (see Table 1) and then try to refute the statements above.

Project manager is assigned at the initiation stage of the project. This is a point of time when the “go” decision on the project has already been made by the senior management, who deemed that the project in question was a good idea and would most likely deliver the proverbial value to the company. Therefore the project manager (unless she combines the role of the project champion and the project manager) is not expected to be responsible for the strategic success of the project. She may ask the questions about the project value if she has strategic knowledge about the domain and if she is very brave, but in general, the CEO of a large international bank should not expect the project manager to challenge him on the strategic value of the “Payments System Replacement” endeavor.