PM Obstacles: Unrealistic Goals

Vicki Wrona, PMP

Leaders who set unrealistic expectations often lack understanding of the intricacies involved in a project and the ripple effect they create on decisions, contingencies and risk. Still, best for project managers to assume good intent and work to overcome this challenge with detailed planning, communication and documentation.

This is the final installment in our four-part “PM Obstacles” series in which we explored common barriers that project leaders and team members face, and how sound project management practices can be used to overcome them. In the first three articles, we examined the culture of firefighting, turf wars and miracle work. We wrap up with unrealistic expectations and micro-managers.

While all project management barriers are aggravating, perhaps none is as troublesome as when leaders set unrealistic expectations. Somehow, through the ancient, mystic project management arts, the project manager will be able to deliver under budget on an unrealistic timeline. This is similar to the problem of expecting miracles. There, we saw that the project manager was expected to be a miracle worker, delivering on project goals when the leaders who were supposed to provide direction and support were not involved and still expected success. Here, the leader arbitrarily makes decisions or adjustments to, for example, the timelines or deliverables without understanding how it …

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"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."

- George Bernard Shaw

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