Project Killer Phrases

I was working with a client recently, and one of the project managers explained, “Our project team is committed to trying to meet this schedule.”


How can a team be committed to trying? When the schedule is nuts, or they know they can’t meet it, or they don’t know what to do, or any number of other causes that would prevent the team from meeting the schedule. In this case, the project team knew they could not complete the features in the requested schedule.

There are several project killer phrases. Here are some of my favorites:

– We’ll try (the one above)
– We’ll work smarter (we’re working stupidly now?)
– It’s just one more change (many phrases with “just” are project killers)
– Let’s hope for the best (I wouldn’t bank my company’s future on hope)
– We’ll multi-task (that way we can not make progress on anything)
– We’ll find the resources somewhere (where?)
– We’ll make do (being resigned to the worst certainly won’t help finish a project)

If you hear yourself (or your manager) saying one of these phrases, stop. It’s time to determine what can and cannot be done in this project with this project team. I’ve used these approaches when I think the project is impossible in its current incarnation:

– Maybe we can work feature-by-feature, and we’ll know more about when we could be done.
– I understand you want to deliver that then. I don’t know how.
– At this point, we can meet the schedule or the list of features. Let’s talk about the combination of what’s most important and I will work with the team to see what we can deliver.