Quite a while ago someone mailed me a document titled ’50 Rules of Project Management’. The ‘rules’ are all tongue-in-cheek and consist mainly of analogies and sarcasm. As the years go by, I gladly share these rules with both aspiring and experienced project managers. However, the more I do this (and the more project management experience I get), I have begun to wonder how many of these ‘rules’ are actually true, rather than the view of disillusioned project managers. Or people managed by incompetent project managers.

So herewith a number of articles that will address some of these ‘rules’ to hopefully understand if there really is truth in jest.

Rule 1: ‘It takes one woman nine months to have a baby. It cannot be done in one month by impregnating nine women’. While there is an element of truth in this one – well okay, it’s totally true – we could have 18 babies born in nine months if 18 women are involved. This point illustrates that some project problems are not solved by throwing resources at them, however, it does highlight a valuable tool for project managers, that of resource levelling. This allows the project manager to allocate the necessary amount of resources to ensure the project timelines are met, while at the same time making sure that a project is not over-resourced, with non-productive resources consuming project budget.

Rule 2: ‘A little risk management saves a lot of fan cleaning’. Project management is so much more than just creating a Gantt chart and tracking progress against it. In fact, the Gantt chart is only one of the tools at the disposal of the project manager. Along with all the ‘other stuff’ goes risk management which is so often overlooked by project managers. An old adage states that if something can go wrong, it will and a robust risk management strategy will increase the chances of a successful project outcome. It should specify what will be done to prevent the risk becoming a reality as well as what will be done should the risk become a reality. Should the risk become a reality, it’s also important to understand what it would cost both in terms of time and money so that an appropriate budget be set aside.

Rule 3: ‘The sooner you get behind schedule, the more time you have to make it up’. This is not to say that tardy delivery should be condoned and tolerated, but it does go hand-in-hand with rule 2. While as many as possible risks should be identified upfront, it’s important that risk management remains an on-going activity. Additional risks and issues (i.e. risks that have materialised) should be identified as soon as possible in order that mitigating actions can be performed and contingencies made.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of ‘Smashing the Rules of Project Management’.