I’m Big in Japan – and 5 Other Project Management Myths

In case you haven’t heard that one before, “I’m big in Japan” is a way of boosting yourself in some unverifiable fashion. Specifically, it means, “To say/pretend you are someone of stature somewhere else, meaningless and not verifiable where you currently are.”

Many are guilty, at times, of overestimating reach, ability, impact, etc. in order to make gains and win clients. We’ve seen some fall in this fashion like the new college basketball coach a few years ago who had to let go of a great job and salary because he really didn’t have the degree that he said he did. Bottom line, if you say you’re big in Japan, then Japan better have at least heard of you.

Enough of the Japan discussion…on to project management. Let’s explore 5 top project management myths and then get some feedback from our crazy creative readers.

1. You need custom project status reports to make all stakeholders happy

While this sounds good, remember that as a project manager probably leading five or six projects at the same time you also value your sanity. Go more for the one-size fits all project status reporting solution with a nice dashboard for the C-level quick overview and be sure to include last week, this week, and going forward activities, current issues and change orders, something that shows budget and resource forecasting status and health and anything else that makes sense on your project for you and your team and customer and the industry. But do it once each week in one style and be done.

2. Whatever management says goes

This philosophy failed me on two occasions on projects totaling about $2.5 million – one private sector IT project and the other a public sector IT project. Same company, same PMO director though. Ouch. He’s no longer a PMO director. My motto is customer first now and has been since those two mishaps. Actually, it was before that, but I just wasn’t assertive enough. The PM understands both sides of the coin better than anyone else…if you don’t feel that a management decision or direction aligns with your client’s or project’s best interests then speak up. No matter what. If the project fails even if it wasn’t your decision, it’s still YOUR failed project.

3. One PM tool will do everything you need

I may be wrong about this one – and I’m sure there are certain projects in certain industries for certain customers where this may actually be true. But, for me and the projects I’ve led, old habits have died hard and I’ve still had the need for some helper tools and nothing yet has replaced my financial and resource forecasting spreadsheets. I’m still open to being proven wrong though…and I’ve seen several tools that are very close. My advice is to look hard at several tools and pick something that covers all or most of what will make you, your team, your senior management, and the customer happy. Because if you can do it with one tool, then do it.

4. Your project team will follow you anywhere

If they respect you and you keep your promises and make good decision, they will follow you more often than not. But your project team is full of skilled creative thinkers and you need that…much more than you need “yes” men (check out this article on how to boost team engagement in 3 steps). So, take advantage of the diverse knowledge and opinions they bring to the table. You’ll make better overall decisions for the project, team and customer with their input.

5. You win and you will get your rewards

If you are in project management for the accolades, get out now. Your reward will be more in jobs well done and project teams that you enjoy collaborating with than in any rewards you will receive. My motto is always “You’re only as successful as your last customer thinks you are…” Words to live by. You are expected to win – even though more than 50% of all projects fail to some degree. So, enjoy the work…enjoy the teams you work with. That’s what you take away from this more than anything else. And that is enough. Great people are great to work with.

Summary / call for input

These are just a few PM myths I’ve uncovered along the way during my 25+ years of managing projects, technical development teams, and working directly with CIOs, CEOs, and PM vendor presidents and CEOs in various employee and consulting roles. How about our readers? What do you have to add to this list or possibly disagree with? Please share and discuss.

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM author with over 25 years experience as a developer, manager, project manager and consultant.