Project Management Laws

Project Management Laws, Quotations and Sayings

Project Management Laws

If it can go wrong it will - Murphy's law.

If it can't possibly go wrong, it will - O'Malley's corollary to Murphy's law.

It will go wrong in the worst possible way - Sod's law.

Finely chopped cabbage in mayonnaise - Coleslaw.

Work expands to fill the time available for its completion - Parkinson's law.

It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account - Hofstadter's Law.

50% of the work in a project is done by the square root of the number of people on the project - Price's Law.

If there is a 50% chance of something going wrong then 9 times out of 10 it will.

A two year project will take three years, a three year project will never finish - (anyone know who's law this is?)

Murphy, O'Malley, Sod, Parkinson, Hofstadter, Price and Cole are alive and well - and working on your project.


"We trained hard...but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized...I was to learn later in life that we meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation."

Often attributed to Petronius Arbiter (c.27BC-66AD) but actually written by Charlton Ogburn Jr. in 1957.

"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."

Douglas Adams, more recently.

"I don't know the key to success but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

Bill Cosby

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

George Santayana (1863-1952)

"Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome."

Samuel Johnson, 1759

The 7 Phases of a Project

1. Wild enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Confusion
4. Panic
5. Search for the guilty
6. Punishment of the innocent
7. Promotion of non-participants


Tell me what you need and I'll tell you how you can get along without it.

If you are as confused as I am then you know as much as I do.

A lack of planning by you does not constitute an emergency for me.

Give me a date, I won't hold you to it.

We haven't got time to stop for directions - we're late already.

There are two types of software - bad software and the next release.

The testers won't break the system but the user who thinks the cd-rom drive is a drinks holder will.

If you want to make a very late project even later add more people to it.

Successful project management is spotting the projects that will succeed and shouting "mine" and for the rest ducking and shouting "yours".

Project management is just common sense - the trouble is common sense isn't very common in our organisation.

Murphy was an optimist.

Accept that some days you'll be the pigeon and some days you'll be the statue.

Cohn's Law

The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all your time doing nothing but reporting on the nothing you are doing.

Woehlke's Law

Nothing gets done till nothing gets done.

Project Managers will not get the staff they need so long as they muddle through with overtime, ulcers and super-human effort. Only when deadlines are missed will senior management approve the staff who, had they been available at the outset, would have prevented the missed deadlines.

Hoggarth's Law

Attempts to get answers early in a project fail as there are many more wrong questions than right ones. Activity during the early stages should be dedicated to finding the correct questions. Once the correct questions have been identified correct answers will naturally fall out of subsequent work without grief or excitement and there will be understanding of what the project is meant to achieve.

Machiavelli's caution for Project Managers

"And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."

Nicolo Machiavelli c.1505 (trans. W. K. Marriott) page - Project Management Proverbs

Project Management Articles:

Risk Management

Quality Management in Software Development Projects

The Tale of Three Project Managers

Towards a Project-Centric World

Project Management Proverbs, Saying, Laws and Jokes

So You Want To Be A Project Manager?

I.T. Project Management Books

Project Management Jokes Humour Proverbs and Laws

These project management proverbs, truths and laws have been compiled and some written by Mike Harding Roberts

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