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Too much project management

If project management is goal-oriented organisation, then surely you can never have too much?

On my walk to the supermarket I pass a local school that uses its noticeboard to post a quote of the week. The theme is usually on education, though it sometimes welcomes back students after the holidays. This week, the message touts its love of sesquipedalian words.

I am a word nerd but I must admit I’d never come across the word ‘sesquipedalian’ before. I had a guess, figuring that if a sesquicentenary was 150 years then it had to do with the number ‘150’* and ‘ped’ could be feet or children. Did it mean a word 150 feet in length?

Contextually, I was on the mark: sesquipedalian means ‘long word’, from the Latin for ‘one-and-a-half’ and ‘foot’. But I was disappointed with the school’s enthusiasm. Communication is two-way, and if you use a sesquipedalian word, then you reduce the chance of people understanding what you mean. And if brevity is the soul of wit, then sesquipedalianism just ruined my joke.

It did start me thinking about excess, however. When we think in negative terms, we often add the word ‘not’, but excess in the form of the word ‘too’ is also undesirable. And I wondered whether you could have too much project management. I have certainly been roped into projects that have so many layers of stakeholders for such an inconsequential outcome that I’ve backed out with my hands up.

There are plenty of practitioners who think so too. Agile advocates such as Evan Leybourn say projects are inherently flawed. Why use a temporary endeavour to make a change when dealing with change should be a constant element of running an organisation?

For my part I think the death of the project has been exaggerated. Excess project management is merely a question of scale and the remedy is fitting the management to the outcomes required. After all, you don’t need Primavera to run a school fete and you don’t use a sesquipedalian word when a short one will do.

Have you ever been involved in an over-managed project? What happened?

*Actually it means one-and-a-half, 1.5 x 100 years = 150 years.

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Adeline Teoh is the editor of ProjectManager.com.au. She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
has written 112 articles for us.