Five Project Management Pathologies

PMI Pike's Peak Regional, Colorado Chapter

Walt Washburn is a Project Management Professional and has been a technical systems project manager for 30 years. Working projects in the DoD, Federal, legal, banking, consumer services and healthcare sectors has kept the journey interesting. Walt established and led an enterprise Project Management Best Practices organization at Caremark, and later spearheaded an internal consultancy for Enterprise Project Management at CVS Caremark. These days he practices Project and Change Management within that Fortune 20 company promoting performance-driven development for strategic enterprise applications.

Pathology: The study and diagnosis of disease. From the Greek Pathos, "suffering" and -logia, "study of".

So we have the study of project management suffering…how many of us have a good working knowledge of suffering in our chosen field of work?

Since it’s the cold season, I wanted to share a list of maladies that will take your project down if you aren't paying attention or fail to keep your guard up. Each are preventable, and as the old saying goes: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let's look at them briefly and see if there are any surprises….

Confusing Estimates and Commitments
Fail to understand when one party (key stakeholder) is asking for a commitment and another (the PM) is offering an estimate...and you have makings of the indignation and bitter disappointment that can mark the end of a promising PM career.

The crucial difference between an estimate and a commitment is how uncertainty is treated. In the case of an estimate, the role of uncertainty is primary--the fact that there are important elements that are out of the estimator's sight or control are why the term estimate is being used in the first place. An estimate represents an expectation that is wholly dependent upon resolution of the uncertainties. The responsible estimator talks in terms of probability distributions and …

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"The remarkable thing about television is that it permits several million people to laugh at the same joke and still feel lonely."

- T.S. Eliot

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