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Brad Egeland


I’m Big in Japan and Other Project Management Myths

It’s easy to overestimate reach, ability, and impact. Here are five myths to avoid.

Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 - 13:02

In case you haven’t heard this one before, “I’m big in Japan” is a way of boosting yourself in some unverifiable fashion. Specifically, it means, “To say or pretend you are someone of stature somewhere else, which is meaningless and not verifiable where you currently are.”

Many are guilty, at times, of overestimating reach, ability, and impact to make gains and win clients. We’ve seen some fall in this fashion, like the new college basketball coach a few years ago who had to let go of a great job and salary because he really didn’t have the degree that he said he did. Bottom line? If you say you’re big in Japan, then Japan better have at least heard of you.

But enough of Japan. On to project management. Let’s explore five top project management myths that might fall in the big-in-Japan category.

You need custom project status reports to make all stakeholders happy
Although this sounds good, remember that as a project manager probably leading five or six projects at the same time, you also value your sanity. Go more for the one-size-fits-all project status reporting solution with a nice dashboard for the C-level quick overview. Be sure to include last week, this week, and going-forward activities; current issues and change orders; something that shows budget and resource forecasting status; health; and anything else that makes sense for you, your team, the customer, and the industry. But do it once each week, in one style, and be done.

Whatever management says goes
This philosophy failed me on two occasions on projects totaling about $2.5 million. One was a private-sector IT project and the other a public sector IT project. Same company, same project management office (PMO) director, though. Ouch. (He’s no longer a PMO director.) My motto now is “customer first,” and has been since those two mishaps. Actually, it was my motto before that, but I just wasn’t assertive enough. The project manager understands both sides of the coin better than anyone else; if you don’t feel that a management decision or direction aligns with your client’s or project’s best interests, then speak up. No matter what. If the project fails—even if it wasn’t your decision—it’s still your failed project.

One project management tool will do everything you need
I may be wrong about this one. I’m sure there are certain projects in certain industries for certain customers where this may actually be true. But for me and the projects I’ve led, old habits have died hard, and I’ve still had the need for some helper tools. And nothing yet has replaced my financial and resource forecasting spreadsheets. I’m still open to being proven wrong, though. I’ve seen several tools that are very close. My advice is to look hard at several tools and pick something that covers all or most of what will make you, your team, your senior management, and the customer happy. Because if you can do it with one tool, then do it.

Your project team will follow you anywhere
If they respect you and you keep your promises and make good decisions, your team will follow you more often than not. But your project team is full of skilled, creative thinkers, and you need them—much more than you need “yes” types. So take advantage of the diverse knowledge and opinions your team brings to the table. You’ll make better overall decisions for the project, team, and customer with their input.

You win and you will get your rewards
If you are in project management for the accolades, get out now. Your reward will be more in jobs well done and project teams that you enjoy collaborating with than in any rewards you will receive. The adage, “You’re only as successful as your last customer thinks you are” has solid evidence to back it up, so they are words to live by. You are expected to win—even though more than 50 percent of all projects fail to some degree. So, enjoy the work. Enjoy the teams you work with. That’s what you take away from this more than anything else. And that is enough. Great people are great to work with.

These are just a few project management myths I’ve uncovered during my 25+ years of managing projects, technical development teams, and working directly with CIOs, CEOs, and vendor management directors in various employee and consulting roles. How about you? What do you have to add to this list or possibly disagree with? Please share and discuss.


About The Author

Brad Egeland’s picture

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a business solution designer and IT/PM consultant and author with more than 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience. Visit his site at www.bradegeland.com.