Project management is vast. Few professions involve so many management tools, terms and different skills. There’s a lot to understand — like planning, scheduling, budgeting and leadership for starters — and it can often feel overwhelming.
Project managers are great at taking up a challenge, but sometimes they can use some extra encouragement. Often, it’s the project manager who is the one who rallies the team and calms the concerns of the stakeholders. Who cares for the lonely project manager? We do!
There’s always a point in every project when it helps to get a little perspective, to understand that there are others who can relate to what you’re going through. During these moments, it can help to get some inspiration to motivate you over those humps.
That’s why we’ve collected the 10 best project management quotes. They cover the wide gamut of duties and responsibilities that fall under a project manager’s purview. Read them, share them and keep them close at hand for when you need them.
Project Management Quotes
1. “Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.” –Henry Mintzberg
A business and management academic and author, Henry Mintzberg, has studied management and has found that there is not one magic bullet that shoots through all the skills needed to run a successful project. It’s a practice made up of many disciplines. You can be an expert at the textbook definition of a dozen methodologies, or an intuitive leader who manages from the gut, but if you lean too heavily on one or the other, you’re never going to fully realize your potential.
Management is not a science, nor is it an art or craft, and yet it features aspects of all three. Think of management as a Venn diagram, and management is where the circles for art, science and craft meet. You need to be methodical, always scheduling and budgeting according to a planned structure. But that plan isn’t going to take place in some abstract realm. There are outside influences that will impact it, not to mention the project is executed by people, and people are notoriously difficult to place in box. There’s a bit of artistry involved in maneuvering through a project, that is to say: be flexible and use everything at your disposal.
2. “The key to successful leadership today is influence not authority.” – Kenneth Blanchard
Leadership and management author, Kenneth Blanchard understands that leadership isn’t a one-way street. The successful project leader doesn’t bark orders and then sit back and expect them to be followed blindly. That’s not leadership; it’s totalitarianism. Even if such top-down authority is adhered to, it will crush any creative thinking and innovation.
Real leaders are not separate from their teams. They might be tasked with making the plans and responding to issues as they arise, but they’re not motivating out of fear or strength. They build a relationship of mutual trust. This creates buy-in for the project, and it also influences the team to work harder towards their common goal. It’s that influence that is mightier than authority, because influence address the entire person. The project becomes their project, and its success is their success.
3. “Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan.” – Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill lead Britain during WWII. The stakes were high. He didn’t have an option to fail and start again. Failure would be catastrophic. You can believe that he didn’t take that responsibility lightly and just go forth haphazardly, figuring out how to act on a whim. He planned. There was a goal and, therefore, there had to be a strategic plan to achieve it.
The stakes won’t be as high for your project, but the ideas behind what Churchill wisely said are unchanged. He understood, like any smart project manager, that a plan was necessary to structure a course of action within the restrictions of space, time and funding. But he also knew that being rigidly stuck to that plan would lead to disaster. A plan, after all, is only one potential pathway to success. There will always be external and internal factors that influence that plan. Issues will arise, and you can only plan against so much risk. Therefore, the plan is as critical as the need to adjust it.
Related: 25 of the Best Planning Quotes
4. “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker
Are you hearing what management consultant Peter Drucker is saying about communications? It’s important. There’s probably no single more important skill that being a good communicator. It impacts every phase of the project and is the vehicle by which you deliver information to both your team and stakeholders.
Communication is about listening as much as it is about speaking. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but what somebody hears can often be far afield from what you’ve said. That’s why it’s critical to dialogue. Have the person repeat back what you’ve said, and give them the same courtesy, to make sure the takeaway is accurate. Also, remember, good communication hinges on listening. It’s not just comprehending what is being said but hearing feedback and acknowledging the opinions and perspectives of all involved.
5. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford
It’s easy to forget that Henry Ford was a great innovator. He developed the factory line for assembling cars and made it possible for these machines to become affordable for most people. But he didn’t get there overnight. There were failures, tons of them, but on top of those failures sits success. That’s because failure is a part of the creative process. You can learn from you mistakes, of course, but a failure might lead you in a direction you never imagined, opening greater opportunities than you envisioned.
To think that your project is going to run without a hitch is wrongheaded. Worse, your project can fail. But failure is not the end. Projects are a process. Processes never end, luckily, they just keep going. Yes, you’ll have a deliverable at the end of one project. That project might fail to deliver your goal. Yes, it’s a failure, but only if you give up. The failures you encounter will instruct future projects. They are more than learning experiences; they are fundamental to the process of creation and innovation.
6. “As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own.” – Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler might be better known as a comedian and actress, but what she has to say about teamwork applies to project management. She knows what she’s talking about, too. Acting is a collaborative art. When we believe an actor or laugh at a comedian, it’s not just a good script and fine direction that elicits a response. It’s that the people who bring the words to life are doing so as a team. There are no stars. There is only the whole experience made successful through ego-less teamwork.
If that sounds like a Hollywood self-help book, well, it is just as true in business. Being open to collaboration means that the lens is widening to see potential possibilities that one view is too narrow to discern. When faced with a problem, and there are always issues in a project, you want to have a wide lens. Remember, the project is not executed for your glory, but for the successful delivery of a project or service. Everyone needs to work together towards that goal.
7. “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack Welch
As the former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch knows a thing or two about creating a vision. It might seem as if it’s a bit esoteric, but having a goal motivates people to strive ahead and seek excellence. It gives them a target, however lofty, to aspire to. A vision is that X-factor: it’s intangible but essential for driving project success.
No matter how big or small the project or organization, without a vision it’s stumbling about blindly. That is not the way to get anywhere. However, if you can provide a vision to focus people’s attention towards a common goal, they’ll work harder and more cooperatively towards achieving it.
8. “You may delay, but time will not.” – Benjamin Franklin
Founding father Benjamin Franklin knows about deadlines. He was instrumental in creating the Declaration of Independence, which was a team effort under the strictest of timelines. The British, after all, were coming. He understood that time, though a man-made construct, was nevertheless not going to wait for our fledgling country to become sovereign on its own schedule.
The same is true when managing a project. Time is your most precious resource. You can act as if you have more of it than you do, or that it can be allocated anew when needed, but the clock is a harsh mistress and will not suffer your foolishness without punishment. Respect time, and don’t squander it.
9. “Good leaders do not take on all the work themselves; neither do they take all the credit.” – Woody Williams
Retired United States Marine Corps warrant officer Woody Williams received the Medal of Honor, the highest decoration for heroism our country can give to its servicemen. That’s what you call recognizing service above and beyond the call of duty. While it’s doubtful Williams was motivated by the possibility of being given a medal for his service, it’s more than likely he appreciated that he and his fellow soldiers were recognized for their great sacrifice.
A project isn’t a war, though it can sometimes feel like one, and you’re not going to hand out medals to your team. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re undeserving of reward. Rewards and recognition are not merely motivating factors, but more powerfully the right thing to do. They show your team that they are in fact a team, working together, not for the glory of the project manager but the project. By acknowledging work done well, you’re validating their labors and building trust and a more loyal team going forward.
10. “Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans: it’s lovely to be silly at the right moment.” – Horace
What can the Roman lyric poet, who died over 2,000 years ago, teach us about project management? Plenty. Horace might not be your go-to when you’re tackling a sticky issue, but his attitude can help you work through those problems without making yourself and those around you miserable.
Work is serious business, but you don’t have to be dour doing it. This doesn’t mean fooling around and ignoring your responsibility. However, a little levity can defuse a tense situation. Laughter isn’t only the best medicine; humor also gives you perspective. It puts the problem in context. Even if you’re not dealing with an issue, having a light approach in managing is going to create a less tense environment, which is a more productive one.
Now that you’re motivated and pumped up after reading those project management quotes, you should get the right tools to help you do your job better than ever. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based software that gives you real-time data to accurately and timely respond to a project. Tools like Gantt charts, dashboards and tasks lists enable predictable project success. Try it today by taking this free 30-day trial.