To get you on track and crushing your goals this year, we’ve got 19 project management quotes with helpful advice from project managers, authors, entrepreneurs, philosophers, and successful CEOs.
If you started out this January by setting a bunch of project management goals for your team, or business, and you’re already feeling a bit off track now that the month is coming to a close, you’re not alone.
Goal setting is an important business activity. When goals are tied to your business’s mission, they can help you sort projects that should get done (and get funded) from those that shouldn’t. Additionally, having goals tied to your strategy can not only improve your bottom line, it can motivate your team and help you evaluate performance.
So if goals are so great, why are they so hard to achieve? Unfortunately, the odds are against us because we all tend to underestimate how much time (and how much money) we’ll spend on a given project. This often leads us to have too many goals, and too little time, and it’s probably why so many of us constantly feel buried by work.
Always start your project plan with strategy.
1. “Done right, a strategic intent is really one decision that makes 1,000 decisions.” – Greg McKeown, author
2. “Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.” – W. Clement Stone, businessman, philanthropist & self-help author
3.“People respond well to those that are sure of what they want.” – Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue
4. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu, Chinese military strategist
Whether you’re running your own business, or leading a project within a bigger company, you need to be able to articulate to your team why you’re working on this specific project at this specific time — preferably in 30 seconds or less. If you can’t come up with a rationale, it’s time to reconsider if this project is really a priority.
The best project managers know how to manage people, not just documentation.
5. “People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said but they always remember how you made them feel, that’s what matters the most.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
6. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” – Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid leader and former president of South Africa
7. “Good leaders must first become good servants.” – Robert K. Greenleaf, founder of the Servant Leadership movement
8. “Inspire your people to think like entrepreneurs, and whatever you do, treat them like adults. The hardest taskmaster of all is a person’s own conscience, so the more responsibility you give people, the better they will work for you.” – Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
9. “When you allow people to ask questions, offer opinions and poke holes into projects in the beginning, there’s no finger-pointing later on. As a leader, you want employees to raise a hand when they spot an issue. You want to foster a workforce that feels empowered to make their case early, so they won’t allow something to go wrong if they see it coming in advance.” – Mayke Nagteegal, COO of Messagebird
Your job as a project manager is not just to track the details, break complicated outcomes into doable tasks, and watch the budget like a hawk. It’s also to make sure your team has the resources they need, to anticipate problems, and to keep everyone motivated. The best project managers know their job is more about open and honest communications than perfecting project documents.
Project management means having a plan for how to handle it when things go wrong — because they will.
10. “Leadership is your ability to hide your panic from others.” – Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher
11. “Stop whining, start hustling.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, entrepreneur
12.“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” –Brian Tracy, motivational speaker & author
No matter how perfect your project plan is, reality is always going to look a little (or a lot) different. Accepting this and being able to pivot will get you a lot further than digging your heels in or panicking when things don’t go according to plan. Leading a slam dunk, simple project isn’t going to set you apart from other project managers or businesses, so embrace the messy reality and rise to occasion.
Good project managers lead teams who work hard. Great project managers lead teams who work on the right things.
13. “So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.” – Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and Hunch
14. “Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.” – Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar
15. “The majority of people who claim to be overworked work less than they think they do, and many of the ways people work are extraordinarily inefficient. Calling something “work” does not make it important or necessary.” – Laura Vanderkam, writer, author & speaker
16. “Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master.” – Gretchen Rubin, author
Your team can stay late, put in endless amounts of hours, and while it may look like everyone is working hard, those hours are worthless if they’re not working on the right things. Leave your laptop, and try out “management by walking around.” Working with a fully remote team? Pick up the phone and check in with key project members. Don’t wait for people to come to you with issues. You won’t win kudos from your team, or your higher ups, by hiding behind your keyboard.
And finally, don’t be afraid to kill a project.
17.“If you have never recommended canceling a project, you haven’t been an effective project manager.” – Woody Williams, Project Manager
18. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill, former U.K. Prime Minister
19. “It’s a bad plan that admits of no modification.” – Publilius Syrus, Roman writer & philosopher
Every idea can’t be the right one, at the right time. There are many good reasons for cancelling or postponing a project. There may be dependencies with other projects that don’t line up, the project may need way more budget than you anticipated, or you may have overestimated the benefits. Don’t be afraid to speak up and recommend cancelling a project if it’s the right thing to do for your business. What do you do next? Pick yourself up and find something new to start.
Getting any project done takes both inspiration and perspiration. Hopefully we’ve provided you with the first one with these project management quotes. Now it’s time to make a plan, roll your sleeves up, and tackle the work. Need a little more help getting things done this year? Check out the 19 productivity apps your team needs now.