Making a Project Manager’s Work-Life Miserable

You might have noticed in previous posts that I occasionally mention the entertaining and wise writings of Scott Berkun. His book, Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management (Theory in Practice) is an experience-based trip through managing a project. His other writings and presentations offer wisdom couched inside a great sense of humor and wrapped with a touch of cynicism. When he recently posted on the topic titled, How to torture your project manager. I could not resist.

I won’t spoil the entire post here, but I selected a couple good whammies and then let my mind wander over tactics and strategies that can give a project manager ulcers or at least ruin his or her day. So, here are a couple of Scott’s key observations:

  • Never give specific odds or probabilities. Always make ambiguous commitments like “Probably,” “we may be able to do that” or “it’s possible.”
  • Do not disagree directly when your manager makes a proposal or suggests an action. Wait until you are both in the presence of their boss, or bosses boss, and intensely disagree then.

Here are additional tricks of the torturer’s trade based on my observations and experience:

  • Never answer a project manager’s question directly. Always add caveats, conditions, or a list of concerns.
  • Alternatively, agree to do anything the project manager asks, without telling them how long it will take or how much effort is in involved. (They should know enough to ask- right?)
  • When working on problem solving during a staff meeting, continue to suggest that more study is needed before the question can be answered. Suggesting a gold-star committee to work on the problem and report back can add weeks of delay to the project schedule.
  • Wait until the last minute (or after) to tell your PM you are running late on finishing a task.
  • Do not ask for help with a problem until you are at least a week behind schedule.
  • Save up some really good or bad news for staff meeting with your PM’s boss.  Your PM will be glad you shared.
  • During staff meeting repeatedly change the subject to something of personal interest to the project manager. This is the same strategy you used in school to get a professor talking about politics in order to steer him away from a hard differential equations assignment.
  • Ask your previous project manager what they would do in a certain situation. Then use that as a defense when talking with your current project manager.

Goodies in the same vein from Rafael Mumme’s article, 20 Things That Drive Web Developers Crazy

  • Fill out your time sheets at the end of the week, so the PM won’t know until Monday that the project is over budget.
  • Play “catch me if you can” to get your timesheet filled out. Mention that while you’re filling out your time sheet you’re not working. “For bonus points ask how long you should add into your timesheets for the task of filling out your timesheets.”
  • Don’t tell us when you have completed a task, wait until we ask.
  • Mention at least once a week that no one uses Windows or Internet Explorer anymore — despite the analytics

Share your favorite stories of how to torment a project manager.

Is the sustained recession effecting project resource management?

Software development organizations are not immune to the effect of our country’s sustained recession. There is pressure from all sides – senior management, customers and other stakeholders — to cut costs and comply with budgets.  The largest component of project costs and schedule variance fall under the purview of resource management. In my experience, ineffective resource management is one of the primary causes of project failure and its impact is even more important in today’s economic climate.

Smart resource management decisions begin with knowledge. I believe it is important to all of us to understand how organizations are handling resource management — what works, what does not work,  how does it work — and to share that knowledge.  

Cognitive Technologies would appreciate your help.
Project resource management is "the planning, allocating, and scheduling of resources to tasks, generally including manpower, machine, money, and materials. In 2009, Cognitive Technologies supported research on resource management tools and processes. Our findings are posted on our website as well as discussed in three previous posts – (2009 Project Resource Management Survey,  Project Management Resource Survey 2009 – Results, Project Management Resource Survey 2009–Challenges).

In 2010, working with Christina Jackson from The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, Cognitive Technologies is conducting a further survey to study resource management practices and their impact on overall project success. The survey contains:

  • Basic profile questions about your organization, so that we can determine how practices vary by organization size, type (e.g., commercial, government, non-profit), industry, and how beliefs vary by the title of the respondent
  • Questions to assess the usage of resource management tools and processes and the existence of any challenges across organizations

I would sincerely appreciate it if you could take 10 minutes to complete the survey and help us ensure a broad representative sample of project managers and project resource management. You will find the survey at Just press “Continue” at the bottom of the screen to get started.

We will keep your answers strictly confidential. To thank you for participating, you will receive a complimentary gift and a digital copy of the final report including comparison with the 2009 survey in September.


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