Article - The Dangers of Being a Good Project Manager 2


Quite some time ago I published an article titled “The Dangers of Being a Good Project Manager” where I discussed some of the shortcomings of being an efficient project manager, namely that some people tend to think of a well-managed project to be easy and a poorly run endeavor to be complicated.

A friend and a project management colleague of mine recently shared this hilarious and yet deeply disturbing story of his home renovation project with me.

Bob (let us call him that) and his wife buy a new house that is in need of significant upgrades. Here are the parameters of the project:

  • Scope:
    • Install New hardwood floors (includes the removal of old carpet)
    • New stairs Including removal of the old ones)
    • Repaint kitchen cabinets including installation of new door handles
    • Repaint 3 rooms
  • Budget
    • $10,000
  • Timeline
    • The most interesting constraint on this project – only 5 days. The problem was that the current owner could only move out on the 25th of the month, while Bob and his family had to vacate their rental on the 31st.

Considering the extremely tight deadline, Bob – as a true project manager - realizes that the key to success on this project is planning. So, three months before the date he starts to visit hardware store, talk to specialists and bring home numerous samples of paint, varnish, hardwood etc. The following conversation occurs on more than one occasion at Bob’s household:

Bob: Hey, Nicole, take a look at these eight samples of the hardwood flooring. Which one do you think will accentuate our furniture?

Nicole: Oh, for the love of God, Bob! The move is three months away! Three months! Why do we have to spend our Friday evening looking at those samples? We will figure it out a week or so before the move.

Finally, Bob gives up and decides to embark on the planning exercise all by himself. He creates a list of items needed for the renovations (tools, paints, brushes, trays, masking tape, paint rollers, hardwood floors, steps, varnishes, tarps, etc.). He purchases all of the above items and places them in the storage. He arranges to get a room from the current landlord in order to paint the stair treads with four coats of varnish. He develops a day-by-day Gantt chart of all the activities required to finish the project accounting even for the paint’s drying time. He prioritizes the tasks in order to be able to drop some of them in case thing go wrong (e.g. paint doesn’t dry as quickly as expected). He rents a truck, loads all of the of the above-mentioned items on it and at 8:00 am on the 25th of the month proudly drives it to his new house.

The hectic work ensues; Bob, Nicole and one additional handyman who Bob has hired earlier (forgot to mention that!) proceed to work from – literally - dawn to dusk for the next five days. Everything (well, almost) goes according to Bob’s plans. Old carpet is removed, new hardwood is installed, stair treads are replaced, kitchen cabinets are renovated and the walls in all the three rooms are painted.

Now picture this:

Late rainy night. It is 1:30 am on the 30th of January. Visibly thinner and unshaven Bob is standing completely exhausted staring at the drying paint on the last wall in the room. He is dirty, covered in saw dust, and there are five different shades of paint in his hair. He feels like he is about to collapse on the floor and the only thing preventing him from doing that is the thought of the bottle of wine in the kitchen fridge … Suddenly Nicole appears from around the corner, hug him and whispers into his ear:

You see, honey, we did it! And you were worried so much about this! It turned out to be pretty easy!

So here is my question for you. How do you explain the difference between the well-run and easy projects to your stakeholders:

  1. I simply don’t bother with that. They should be able to identify this difference by themselves
  2. It is a big challenge for me, but I am not entirely sure WHAT can be done to alleviate this problem
  3. I have a method! (Please share it if you have selected option C)

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 three very popular books: 

  1. Delivering Exceptional Project Results: A Practical Guide to Project Selection, Scoping, Estimation and Management 
  2. Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects
  3. Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: Thirty Case Studies from around the World