A Project Manager’s Mantras

How do you get focused, when stress is high, when problems are flying at you like tennis balls out of a machine gone wild, when the project schedule is as robust as a thin coat of ice on a pond in the fall, when communications is as effective as shouting into a hurricane?  In effect, what do you tell yourself to regain focus and control?  Is it a simple saying you repeat to yourself again and again? A mantra, if you will.

According to Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 1998, 2nd Ed., a mantra is, “A word or formula … [ed. Hindu] chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.”  This brings to mind a monk sitting in prayer repetitively chanting the same phrase, hours on end.  A number of years ago, a mentor of mine introduced me to the concept of a mantra for project managers, tongue-in-cheek.  This has stayed with me all these years, so now I would like to share it and a couple of others with you, my readers.

The 800-pound gorilla in the room with most technology project plans is resources, nobody wants to assign them, nobody wants to discuss their cost, nobody wants to identify what and who is needed, nobody knows where they are going to come from.  In technology (IT, telecom, software, product development, …) the business mindset is, projects have only scope and schedule.  To that end, a former project management instructor of mine, Joe Fusco, proposed the following as a mantra:

No resources- No project

So next time you’re assigned a project, look for the resources, if there are none, feel free to fold you hands and start chanting: No resources – No project … No resources – No project … No resources – No project …

Over the years I’ve seen many definitions for the role project managers.  They usually talk about things like responsibilities, scope delivery, planning, leadership, management, etc.  The problem with getting too fine is, the role definition starts to diverge because of variables like project complexity, industry, nature of scope, PM experience, etc.  A good sum-it-up-in-a-couple-words characterizations is the title of Scott Berkun’s book, Making Things Happen (O’Reilly, 2008, 1st ed.)  However for our mantra, I propose the infamous line from comedian Larry The Cable Guy:


So hit the work place every morning with a determined mindset and no matter what challenges befall you, just keep chanting: Get-R-Done … Get-R-Done … Get-R-Done …

Along the same line as our last mantra and its focus on accomplishment, I have found another.  Projects are goal-oriented and all aspects of project manager’s life should be the same.  With this strong goal focus there is a mental toughness to drive for results.  Mental toughness is really a continuum of determination.  At the highest end of this continuum is our third mantra:

I will

So when doubt about the outcome of the project starts to creep into your mind, with a determined focus start chanting: I will … I will … I will …

Or, with the project team participating: We will … We will … We will …

By now I think you’ve got the idea.  I’ve given you three for your amusement, consideration and/or use.  Now it is your turn, do you have a project management mantra?  If so, please share it with the rest of us.

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