24 December, 2018

Project Management Truths

This article is published on Christmas Eve, 2018. It seems a good time to focus on two things: project management truths and humor. So, I’d like to combine them in a short, light article.

I know some of my readers take time off at this time of year. But others don’t. So, I hope you’ll all find some pleasure and some value in this article.

Project Management Truths

Introducing Tony Quigley

A former colleague of mine, Tony Quigley, was famous among colleagues, friends, and clients for his short, pithy, witty aphorisms, which summed up essential truths about project management.

Tony came to mind when a participant in a live project management course told me she had been writing down a list of the ‘catch phrases’ I’d used throughout the session.

Things like:

An absentee project manager is a contradiction in terms

Dr Mike clayton

The one thing a project manager craves, above all else, is control

Dr Mike Clayton

Your Project Management software will do what you tell it to: not what you want it to

Dr Mike Clayton

You’ll find more examples in my article, 12 Project Management Rules You’d be Wise to Note


You may or may not agree with these. But in my mind, they all suffer in comparison with Tony’s ‘Quigleyisms’ and other great observers of project management truths, like WA ‘Bil’ Brassington, who is responsible for Brasington’s laws.

They have a talent for wit, and wit is memorable. It seems that emotion sticks in our minds, and that is a vital lesson for all project managers to remember. What your stakeholders and team members will remember about your project, is how they felt in the peaks and troughs.

A big part of being a project leader is setting the mood

Here’s a resolution for the coming year…

Make a commitment to yourself to stay positive, lift your people’s spirits, and provide emotional highs that your team and stakeholders will remember.

I guess you’ll be wanting some wit…

Here are a few of my favourites, from Tony, Bil and some apocryphal sources.


The alternative to incremental development is excremental development.

Tony Quigley

If you want it bad, you get it bad.

Tony Quigley

Software does not go wrong: it always was wrong and it merely took this long for the problem to show up.

Tony Quigley

Brassington’s Laws

No major project is ever installed on time, within budget, or with the staff that started it. Yours will not be the first.

W A ‘Bil’ Brasington

If project content is allowed to change freely, the rate of change will exceed the rate of progress.

W A ‘Bil’ Brasington

Project teams detest progress reporting because it vividly manifests their lack of progress.

W A ‘Bil’ Brasington

Miscellaneous other Witty Project Management Truths

Murphy’s Law
If anything can go wrong, it will.

O’Malley’s Law
If anything can’t go wrong, it will anyway.

O’Toole’s Law
Murphy was an optimist.

Hanlon’s Razor
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Ulman’s Razor
When stupidity is a sufficient explanation, there is no need to have recourse to any other.

Lerman’s Law
Any technical problem can be overcome given enough time and money.
Lerman’s Corollary
You are never given enough time and money.

Coblitz’s Law
A committee can make a decision that is dumber than any of its members.

Who are Murphy, O’Malley, O’Toole, Hanlon, Ulam, Lerman, and Coblitz?

The answer is simple…

I don’t know.

Do you have any favourites?

If you do, please do share them below.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
  • Perfection is over-rated.

    Methodical almost always beats brilliant.

    Annoy selectively.

    The relationship matters more than the transaction.

    Start by defining “Done,” “Too Late,” and “Too Much.” If you can’t, don’t start.

    If you know why to quit, you’ll know when to quit.

    Good contracts are like pornography—they leave little to the imagination.

    Doing things “the hard way” builds character, but little else.

    You can’t polish a turd; yet, someone always wants to try.

    Every champion has at least a few scars. Don’t fear failure. Just don’t go looking for it.

    Wisdom comes with age, although age often comes unaccompanied.

    We are but dust, in a universe with allergies, and pride goeth before a sneeze.

    • Dave, thank you.
      One or two old familiars for me, and some new ones too.
      The one I particularly like is ‘If you know why to quit, you’ll know when to quit.’ The value of quitting properly is massively under-rated. I think I shall be using that one myself, in future – but crediting it to you, of course.

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