project management

Article - Top 10 Signs You Are a Horrible Project Stakeholder


Sign#1: You Never Plan and Discourage Others To Do So

Planning never helped anyone. Milestones and deadlines are unnecessary responsibilities and may cause severe headaches at times. Oh, and Gantt charts are for pussies!

Sign#2: Whenever Asked “When Do You Need This By?”, You Always Answer “Yesterday!”

First of all, this answer is hilariously funny! All team members and project managers especially simply love it! In addition it will raise your profile at the company as a no-nonsense, roll-up-your-hands-and-work-harder type of guy.

Sign#3: You Simply Love Having A Lot OF “All-Hands-On-Deck” Meetings

When inviting people always follow “the more, the merrier” approach. Are you planning to discuss high-level scope of the project? Get all of the technical team members in that damn conference room as well! Discussing detailed database design? Invite sales and marketing people; they will be thrilled to learn a lot of technical terms. Oh, and never, NEVER prepare an agenda for the meeting. Things will just sort themselves out.

Sign#4: You Never Trust Anyone

This especially goes to the estimates supplied by your technical team members. Whenever you hear something along the lines of “Well, I think this task should take me 5 or 6 days”, roll your eyes incredulously and decrease the estimate by 50 or even 70%. Believe me, your team members will come to love and respect you for your tough love.

Sign#5: Remember, There Are Always Evenings and Weekends

Always delay sending that all-important email containing a complicated change request until 4:55 pm, or, even better, 4:45 pm on Friday.

Sign#6: You Provide Specific Technical Advice At Any Opportunity

Tell your designed which colour combination is the most appropriate for the dining room. Find coding errors in your programmer’s script. Explain the basics of scheduling to your project manager. Educate your engineers about how to build ships. After all, division of labour is the thing of the past!

Sign#7: You Ignore Risks

Bad surprises do not happen on good projects! Scope creep is a myth created by those evil business analysts. Users always know exactly what they want and they never say, “Oh, and I just thought about this very important feature” in the middle of product acceptance procedure.

Joke of the Day – What is Project Management?


Found this somewhere on the Internets and just had to share it!

Son: Dad, what do you do at work?

Father: I work as a project manager on outsourced projects, son.

Son: So, what is that like?

Father: (thoughtfully) Well, kid … imagine that a customer calls and tells you that one of her employees has been wounded by a spear, and now has this lance sticking out of his belly …

Son: And then what?

Father: So, I conduct a preliminary assessment of the project scope, timeline and budget and then tell the customer that the spear needs to be carefully removed and that the total cost would be $1,000.

Son: And then what?

Father: Well, the client usually replies that my proposal exceeds her budget by a very large margin …

Son: So, what do you do in this situation?

Father: For a mere $500 we end up bending the spear around his body and coating it with a flesh-coloured paint so it doesn’t stand out so much!

And what is your favouirte project management joke?

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: 

Article - The Ultimate Matrix for Troubled Projects Recovery



In recent years I have been spending a good portion of my consulting time on rescuing troubled projects around the world. Very often I would receive an e-mail stating something to the effect of:

Hi Jamal,

Our company is currently experiencing certain issues with our (typically flagship) Project X and we would like to hear your opinion on how to remedy the situation. Would you be able to fly here for a project audit?

As a result of this, after having been exposed to a multitude of various troubled initiatives, I decided to attempt to systemize different types of problematic projects and potential approaches to their rescue (see Table 1). Please also note that I am trying to combine both the project portfolio management (i.e. value) and project management (i.e. on-time, on-budget, etc.) aspects of project success.

Table 1


Article - An Energetic Stakeholder Who Has No Clue, But Wants to Appear Important


I am not sure whether this problem is representative to other project managers, but since I keep encountering it over and over in my project management career, I will dedicate today’s posting to it.

Have you ever been involved in the project with a fairly senior but absolutely clueless stakeholder? You know, the one who never bothers even to attempt to understand the topics or problems discussed, but is always ready to ramble for minutes (and sometimes hours) about absolutely useless solutions? Here is a couple of examples:


Example # 1

PM: And now, guys, I want to discuss the issue about the reporting for senor management. The executives want to see “Subcontractors Travel Time” as a separate line item to distinguish it from the “Subcontractor Labor Time” … The problem is that our system is not capturing this info (turning his head to the real subject matter expert, the Senior Systems Architect) Bob, any thoughts on this topic?

Bob: Well, we could …

Energetic Stakeholder: (rudely interrupting Bob) Oh, I know! You should talk to Melanie from the HR department! Schedule an all-hands-on-deck meeting with her right away!

PM: Melanie? But she is from Human Resources … She has neither financial, nor IT background to help us.

Energetic Stakeholder: Well, she did some reports for our executives six or seven years ago!

Bob: Listen, she did create a couple of HR reports in a different system (Excel to be precise) long time ago. But, trust me, when I tell you that they have NOTHING to do with out issue. We can’t address this problem until we ask our subcontractors to report their travel and labor time separately. We need to talk to the Subcontractors team …

Energetic Stakeholder: (defiantly) I must insist that we talk to her!

Example # 2

PM: Ok, people, today we are going to discuss the functionality of the “Add Item to the Shopping Basket” page … Some of the features on the menu are: state taxes, shipping options, “people who bought this item also bought these items”, customer reviews, number of product photos allowed, zoom options, etc. We have A LOT do discuss, so let us get started!

Business Analyst: Ok, let us start with the taxes issue. Here is what I was able to find …

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.

Article - What to Do When You Know That Your Project is Doomed Even Before the Initiation Stage?


Imagine the following situation:

You are an experienced project manager and you have just been invited for an interview by a large company. Your skills are a perfect fit for the project the organization is about to initiate. You have been told that that the estimated duration of the project is approximately two years and the firm is willing to pay top dollar for the right talent (for the sake of the argument let us say “$150 per hour”).

You arrive for the meeting and after a long discussion you suddenly realize that the project in question is a proverbial wild-goose chase. For example, you understand that it would not deliver any value to the company (pet project of an executive), or the constraints imposed on the venture, be it time, budget or scope, will prevent the team from the successful delivery of the final product.

If these examples are too complicated or ambiguous, imagine the following conversation:

CEO: (summoning you to her office) Hey, John! We are planning on starting a brand-new product initiative here at XYZ Inc. and I want to hire you to lead this project.

PM: (interested) OK, I am listening …

CEO: (solemnly) We are planning to build a new state-of-the-art typewriter!

PM: (surprised) A typewriter???

CEO: Yes! Internal company stakeholders are very eager to co-operate with you and provide you with all the high-level features and detailed requirements of the future device. In addition, the team will be given a reasonable budget and deadline to deliver the final product. What do you say?

PM: (shocked) But it is 2016! Nobody uses typewriters nowadays!

CEO: (angered) Well, John I can’t say that I appreciate your attitude! If you don’t think that you are ready, I think I can easily find another project manager to deliver this project for our organization.

(NOTE: If you still think that the above dialogue is completely insane, just read the “The New Ashgabat Airport” case study I have written a couple of weeks ago)


Article - Top 20 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Your Estimates


The science of project management tells us that there are three common constraints to any project: scope, time and budget. Having said that, throughout my project management career, I preferred to work with a PM Pentagon model (see Figure 1) and treat constraints as “degrees of freedom”.

Figure 1


Here is what I did every time I was supposed to present our clients with time, budget or human resource estimates. Usually the estimates presented rarely met customer expectations (budget was too high, duration was too long, etc.) So, the thing to do is for the project manager is to point to each corner of the pentagon and to ask the questions presented in Tables 1 and 2.

Table 1


Table 2


The idea here is that every question you ask is like a door leading to a room with a whole bunch of other doors presenting you with options to deliver a project in a reasonable manner.

And what questions do you ask during your project negotiations?

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 @

Article - Top 10 Questions to Ask When Conducting Project Document Walkthroughs


I would like to start this article with a very interesting statistic originating from the IT and software industry. Unfortunately, due to lack of reliable information from other sectors we have to rely on the data collected in the high-tech field and then construct generalized extrapolations to the rest of the world. So, without further ado, here is a very interesting statistic:

Forty-five percent (45%!) of project costs industry-wide is rework

Let’s ponder this number for a while … If we choose to believe in the power of extrapolation to one degree or another, it looks like by eliminating the amount of rework completely we can decrease all of our project budgets in half. Durations would probably fall by a significant number as well.

How can we minimize the amount of rework?

And the answer is: by conducting technical inspections and customer walkthroughs of all major project documents. The more documents get reviewed fairly early in the process, the less are the chances of missing scope items, unforeseen risks and hidden constraints.

Table 1 contains a list of questions that should be asked during such meetings.

Table 1


And what questions do you ask at your walkthroughs and inspections?

  1. We do not conduct project document walkthroughs
  2. We use the “ad hoc” approach. If a stakeholder sees an error, she just points to it
  3. We have a checklist of questions or potential problems to refer to

Please leave your feedback in the “Comments” section below.

Article - Talent or Process: What Would You Choose?


Several variations of the following phrase have been attributed to a number of business leaders, politicians and, even scientists:

In order to be successful all you have to do is to hire a whole bunch of really talented people and abstain from interfering in their creative process.

I personally strongly disagree with this statement and want to share a study on the roots of project failures conducted by the Standish Group in 2006.

After, yet again, determining that our ability to deliver projects on time and on budget was seriously challenged, they went to the companies they were studying and basically asked the following question:

Our project delivery still sucks. Can you tell us why?

The results of that survey are presented in Table 1.

Table 1


A quick perusal of the table should not surprise any project management professional. Yes, lack of user involvement will kill any endeavor. Same goes for lack of detailed requirements document. Yes, projects where customers expect a delivery of a Ferrari for a price of a bicycle, will most likely go considerably over budget …

But an interesting thin happens if we attempt to highlight all of the factors related to processes, planning and systematic approach, thus separating them from the “human” factors (see Table 2).

Table 2


It turns out that 70% of project success is dependent on the underlying processes while only 30% can be attributed to the talents and industriousness of the team members!

To put it in perspective, let us imagine that we have two teams:

  • Team A consists of absolute technical geniuses, but does not follow any processes and does not have a project manager.
  • Team B is made up from “average” technical professionals, but follows proper processes and is lead by an experienced project manager

If you choose to believe the table above, it looks like Team B will beat team A 2 out of 3 times on any assignment we decide to allocate to them!

Article - Top 10 Project Risks and What to Do About Them


Here is my favourite definition of risk:

Risk is a bad thing that can happen on your project, but you are not entirely sure it will

Below you will find a tables 1 and 2 with ten most common risks and ways to address them both early (highly recommended!) and late in the projects.

Table 1


Table 2


And what are your “favorite” project risks and what do you do about them? Please leave your comments below.

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 @