Little things that make project managers really crazy

Project managers are often bombarded with feedback and concerns from stakeholders, sponsors, and team members, but seldom have the time, energy or opportunity to reciprocate and to discuss the little things that drive them crazy.

I asked some seasoned leaders to do just that.

Mark Tuchscherer is the president of Geeks Chicago, a world-class consulting services company in Schaumburg, IL. He shares his story about client responsibility and accountability as a project owner and partner in success.

What makes him really crazy?

Mark: When it comes to 95% of our large projects, we are an Agile Scrum office. Last year, we had a sizable project which was going to run over a span of months, with multiple sprints. We gathered all of the requirements and built out all of the users’ stories. We planned most of the sprints with the client’s involvement, and they wanted to be extremely hands-on from the start. This was a must-have for them. After each sprint, we did a demo with the client and told them they should do more of their own reviewing and testing after the demo. The application is available to them on our staging server.

As the project was wrapping up, we started to receive change requests and bug notices from the client. We then discovered that the client never reviewed anything, and didn’t pay attention to the demos we did. This killed the timeline, and the project also went over budget. These kind of issues drive us crazy since they are not our fault. Making sure the client follows the Agile process is the key to a successful project.

What makes Ethan Wasserman, SEO Specialist at Watt Media crazy?

Ethan: One thing that drives project managers crazy is when plans aren’t followed. Of course, things change and you need to adapt, but often PMs need to coordinate logistics between many departments. It drives us crazy when, after months of planning, someone changes the plan and you’re forced to hustle and fix it. I was coordinating the company’s transition from their email server to new Google Apps emails. For large companies, this can be a difficult process because of the logistics involved in migrating over older emails. For months we planned how we would implement this through the company. We made clear deadlines and plans. One morning the owner comes in and pushes up the time table. After 2 months of planning, we needed to migrate everything over the next week. We ended up pulling it off but I have since found my pet peeve—unnecessarily ruining a plan. Many issues, hurdles, and errors can be mitigated with proper planning. It’s obviously not always the case, but more often than not when you coordinate between different departments, planning is crucial.

What makes Tim Toterhi of Plotline Leadership, an executive coaching, HR consulting and message management services company, absolutely crazy?

Tim: The thing that drives me crazy-er-est is when a project sponsor, lead, or team member tells me how they FEEL about a key metric or milestone. Sure, projects are filled with variables that monkey with your timelines, resources, and budget, but that’s why planning and deliberate action is so critical. You must constantly, methodically, purposefully adjust your flight plan based on the actual conditions if you hope to hit the mark. You can’t just use the force…and tell me you FEEL the data is off. Granted, I used to bulls-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home that were no bigger than two meters, but it’s not the same thing. Scorecards, project plans, and targeting computers really do work. No disrespect to Star Wars, which rules, of course…

Why is it important for project leaders to share stories like these?

Almost ridiculous amounts of time, intellectual and emotional capital, resources, and skill get pumped into companies through these leaders annually, sometimes without much thought being given to the unnecessary stress and waste that occurs as the result of things outside of their control.

Yes, project managers play a huge role in the successful outcomes, but success is also hugely impacted by business owners, executives, sponsors, team members and other stakeholders. The project pipelines, processes, and assumptions exist to aid all of these partners to reach maximum effectiveness. Without full accountability on the part of all players, it can easily end in frustration for project leaders and disaster for everyone involved.

Post by Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder & President of Lead-Her-Ship Group and a Co-founder and Director, Information Systems & Technology Advisory at Conture Business Advisors, PS. She's also a project management and IT freelance columnist for various publications and a contributor for the Price of Business Talk Radio 1110 KTEK (Home of Bloomberg Radio), Houston, TX. She has 20+ years in business, (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the U.S. and Canada. To find out more about Moira, go to and