PMI-Montréal project management blog

Fourth letter to a young project manager: The Siren's call

Author : François Cartier

"Adaptation is vital because no plan survives its impact on reality."

High-Altitude Leadership

The previous letter addressed the manager and leader hats that the young project manager must change according to the situation. The subject of this letter deals with a mirage that often obscures the eyes of the young project manager.

In ancient times, the siren song of mermaids was a symbol of sailors, who, seduced by the mermaids’ enchanting songs, made poor decisions, which led to them running their ships aground on the reefs. This metaphor applies perfectly in our era when a project manager seduced by his initial plan makes bad decisions and causes the loss of the project.



The initial project planning requires special attention. We must adapt the plan and the methods used to the reality and context of the project. Even the best method or the best approach may fail along the way. A good attitude would be that any method or project management tool has its flaws.

"Incriticaltimes, even the besttoolbreaksor failsinsome otherway."

High-Altitude Leadership


Tip #8:

 Match the appropriate methodology and appropriate techniques depending on the specific challenges of your project. Avoid dogmatism. The project manager must, like the painter who skillfully mixes his colors on his palette, use the right mix of methods. The young project manager must be familiar and master several methods among which to choose from.

• For example, in IT, there is a range of traditional and agile approaches.  According to Robert Wysocki, the right method should be chosen according to the context of the project; traditional, agile or extreme. Ref. Robert Wysocki: Effective Project Management: Traditional, Adaptive, Extreme.

• In the non-IT world, there are also a range of approaches and methods: Kanban, Lean, Six Sigma...



Tip # 9:

 Get familiar with several methods and tools. Attend conferences or table discussions. If your budget does not allow it, watch the webinars. • PMI has provided a number of online conferences that are free: PMI Montreal, PMI webinars.


You put the best of yourself in the initial planning of the project; your plan is appealing. Buta n inexorable gust of annoyance blows, dangerously tearing at the sails of your ship (ie: The plan) under pressure. Sailors turn to you, Captain. How far are you going to stay the original course (plan)? How far are you going to stretch this elastic?


What we learn from the PMBOK, is that in the integration of any project, there are three processes that have as an output required changes:

4.3  Direct and manage the project work

4.4  Monitor and control the project work

4.5  Implement the integrated reviewed changes

These processes use a common tool: the expert judgment. Do you think it's a coincidence ? Of course not, expert judgment can detect when you have to stop pullin gon the elastic and reduce tension by submitting a request for change.


Tip #10:

Compare the three constraints (budget, schedule, scope) and the current sensibility of the project. Use common sense and make a rapid assessment of which orientation to take. There are no tools or magic methods that replace experience and sound judgment. This is why the PMBOK uses the expert suffix. If you lack experience or in case of doubt ask for help! 4-Act You the captain, have decided to change course to avoid the visible reefs on the horizon, or to reduce the growing pressure on the sails, or to remedy a failure. The change request can be either a corrective action, preventative action or default correction.


Tip # 11:

To request a change, use a form; this helps preserve the integrity of the process. A change request should always be documented and officially approved.



When you use a plan as a crutch and that crutch masks an important issue, you do not resolve the important problems of your project. "A fool with a tool is still a fool." It might be added as project management "A fool with a tool is still a fool." The next letter will deal with the appearance of credibility to be acquired by the young project manager.



  • High Altitude Leadership: What the World's Most Forbidding Peaks Teach Us About Success, Chris Warner et Don Schmincke, 2008
  • PMBOK 5ième édition, PMI
  • Plan Do Check Act, «is also known as a system for developing critical thinking», Deming.

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