Posts Tagged ‘monty python’

What did the Project Managers ever do for us?

November 20, 2015

There is that famous scene in Monty Python and The Life of Brian where the rebels are demanding action against the oppressive Romans and ask the question ‘What did the Romans ever do for us?’- The answers came back over and over again as the rebels listed the many things that the Romans brought with them … medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health. So, quite a lot!


I sometimes hear of project management and project managers being challenged in much the same way … ‘what has project management done for us (the organisation)?’ The thinking presumably goes that there are projects but if the business keeps doing projects then they become (presumably) less unusual and less risky and therefore they don’t need this elite band of project managers to constantly be ‘on the case’. Or perhaps it I less a matter of thinking and more a matter of memory loss, forgetting what project based business life was like before project management was in place and making a real difference.

There are two ways of looking at this, or answering the challenge. One is to consider what would business life be like without project management in place. Assuming that projects continue to get commissioned then you might hear a few executives mumbling things like:

‘Our stakeholders really love us, so they don’t care if their projects are late and don’t work.’

And perhaps:

‘We figure it’s more profitable to have 50% overruns than to spend 15% on project management to prevent them.’

And I am sure you have come across the classic:

 ‘Project management is too expensive… on top of the all the rest of the project costs’

The real question that needs to be put on the table to answer these challenges is ‘What is the cost of failure of this project?’ balanced by ‘What, therefore, is the value of de-risking that project by investing a relatively small number of days of project management?’

And that is the number one answer to ‘What has project management done for us?’ – Project management has developed a skill and a process and a capability, combined with a level of experience and ingenuity to make that de-risking investment ‘a relatively small number of days’. In other words what project management does is safe-guard project investment in a very attractive and cost-positive way.

But, and this is critical to the persuasiveness of the argument for project management, it is needed to have up to date ‘proof’ of the work that project managers do and the value that they oversee the delivery of.

And this is the second way of answering this challenge, to look at the levels of success that project management achieves.

Reports such as PMI’s Pulse of the Profession™ The High Cost of Low Performance can really help here. Pulse Report 2013

The ‘What did the project managers ever do for us’ syndrome is recognised in the report ‘…this year’s Pulse of the Profession™ finds that organizations undervalue project management and put inadequate focus on talent development. Only about half of respondents (54 percent) say their organizations fully understand the value of project management’.

But is goes on to clearly lay out what sets high-performing organizations apart and that is:

  • ‘Strong talent management by investing in project talent and providing consistent training, defined career paths and professional development opportunities.
  • Standardization of practices and tools, which leads to a more efficient use of resources and a greater ability to lead and innovate.
  • Strategic alignment of their project, program and portfolio management to organizational goals, creating improved maturity and better project outcomes’.


Supporting this argument for project management are some real ‘eye opening’ statistics of project success value delivered by organisations that invest in project management – go check them out for yourself, it makes satisfying reading.

And the PMI Pulse report concludes with a sobering statement ‘Organizations that have poor project success rates may be forced to manage their projects reactively by tightening deadlines and cutting budgets to achieve their intended results’ and this will only mean less projects, less success, less change delivered, and fewer strategic achievements.

Conversely the same conclusion states ‘Investing in strong, effective project management within an organization will increase project performance. Ultimately, high-performing organizations that have strong project management can create efficiencies; improve alignment with organizational strategies…’.

I think that project management has done a great deal for everyone, the Romans knew a thing or two about project management and look at all that they achieved.

This Project is Dead !

November 19, 2014


[You can see the video on YouTube This Project is Dead! ]


(Scene: Project Manager has been summoned to the office of the Project Sponsor)

The Project Sponsor: ‘Good morning, I wish to register a complaint’

(The Project Manager does not respond.)

The Project Sponsor: ‘Hallo once again Mr Project Management person, I wish to register a complaint’

Project Manager: What do you mean ‘complaint’?’

The Project Sponsor: I wish to complain about this project what I sponsored but three short months ago from this very PMO of which you are a part’

Project Manager: ‘Oh yes I remember you, it was the, the, uh, Project ‘Norwegian Blue’ wasn’t it? So what’s wrong with it?’

The Project Sponsor: ‘I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my PMP certified johnny me lad. It’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!’

Project Manager: ‘No, no, it’s not dead it’s resting’

The Project Sponsor: ‘Look, sonny you might know all about Gantt charts and resource loading and work breakdown thingamajigs but I know a dead project when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now’

Project Manager: ‘No, no it’s not dead, it’s resting! Remarkable project was project ‘Norwegian Blue’ I’d say, beautiful objectives!’

The Project Sponsor: ‘The objectives don’t enter into it nor do the anticipated business benefits for the initial investment matter a teeny tiny bit since it’s stone dead!’

Project Manager: ‘No, no, no, no, no, no! It’s resting, it has had a bit of a tough run recently, had to go through a lot of quality assurance assessments and stage gates, and now it is tired, plain beat if you ask me.’

The Project Sponsor: ‘All right then, if this project is just resting then I will wake it up! (shouting at the top of his voice at his computer screen) ‘Hallo, nice Project! I’ve got a lovely fresh milestone for you…’

(Project Manager hits the sponsors desktop)

Project Manager: ‘There, it moved!

The Project Sponsor: ‘No, it didn’t, that was you hitting the desk!

Project Manager: ‘I never!’

The Project Sponsor: ‘Yes, you did!’

Project Manager: ‘I never did anything…’

The Project Sponsor: (yelling and hitting the desk himself repeatedly) ‘Hallo project, Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o’clock team update alert! Hallo, steering meeting in less than 10 minutes! Escalation update if you might be so kind. Project code red…’

(Project Sponsor spins his screen around to face the project manager and points a finger at a dashboard status line)

The Project Sponsor: ‘Now that’s what I call a dead project’

Project Manager: ‘No, no… no, it’s stunned!’

The Project Sponsor: ‘Stunned?’

Project Manager: ‘Yeah! You stunned it, just as it was waking up! Some projects stun easily you know’

The Project Sponsor: ‘Um, now look mate, I’ve definitely had enough of this. That project is most certainly deceased, and when I asked you for an update not two weeks ago you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it being generally tired and shagged out following a particularly prolonged ‘sprint’ or some such bloody agile nonsense’

Project Manager: ‘Well, it’s probably pining for the overall strategic program’

The Project Sponsor: ‘Pining for the program! What kind of talk is that? Look why was this project barely moving a mere week or two after it was launched?’

Project Manager: ‘Ah well it was noted early on that project ‘Norwegian Blue’ preferred keeping to a steady but sure pace that you may have mistaken for no movement at all! Remarkable project isn’t squire? Lovely objectives!’

The Project Sponsor: ‘Look, I took the liberty of examining that project’s status in some detail on this here dashboard and the only reason it has been showing ‘green’ for the last three months is that someone (looks at project manager suspiciously) has coloured that part of my screen in with a permanent green marker pen’


Project Manager: Well of course it is ‘green’, or it will be just as soon as it has woken up properly, had a good stretch and generally recovered its senses and remembered where it is supposed to be going. It will be off like a shot – Voom!’

The Project Sponsor: ‘Voom! Mate, this project wouldn’t ‘voom’ if you put four million volts through it! This project is bleeding demised!’

Project Manager: (project manager looks desperately hopeful and points finger towards an invisible end date in the sky) ‘Voom…’

The Project Sponsor: ‘This project has passed on! This project is no more! It has ceased to be! This project has expired and has gone to meet its maker! This project a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn’t coloured it ‘green’ it would long ago have been pushing up the dashboard daisies! Its metabolic processes are now history! This project is off the twig! This project has kicked the bucket! This project has shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible! THIS IS AN EX-PROJECT!’


Project Manager: ‘Well, we’d better replace that project with another one for you, then hadn’t we guvnor (he takes a quick peek at the dashboard on the screen)


Project Manager: ‘What about project ‘Slug’ – it’s got lovely objectives? ’

This Project is Dead


Progress isn’t made by early risers, it is made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something’

Peter Taylor is the author of two best-selling books on ‘Productive Laziness’ – ‘The Lazy Winner’ and ‘The Lazy Project Manager’.

In the last 4 years he has focused on writing and lecturing with over 200 presentations around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

His mission is to teach as many people as possible that it is achievable to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and to still gain success in the battle of the work/life balance.

More information can be found at – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.