Why Project Managers Should Not Overpromise and Underestimate at the Same Time

The Perils of Overpromising

It is often said that project management is both an art and a science. It is a science because project managers have to estimate time and cost that it takes to actualize the deliverables. It is an art, as they have to manage resources, people, and other stakeholders. In this context, it is very important for project managers to balance the needs of all stakeholder and especially the needs of the clients. Often, it is the case that project managers have to budget for the project and give the client an estimate of how long the project takes and how much it would cost. This means that they have to be adept at estimating the time and the cost of the project.

In many cases, it is often the practice to overpromise wherein the project managers with the hope of pleasing the client often promise more than they could actually deliver. This is the reason why many projects go haywire, as the initial estimates often are very tight leaving no scope for course correction midway. Further, there is lot of pressure from marketing, the delivery managers, and the group heads in the organization who want the client to be pleased at any cost. This is the case with many Indian software companies where the project managers under pressure from organizational imperatives often overpromise to the client and once the project is underway, they realize that they cannot possibly meet the deadlines.

Underestimating Capabilities and Lack of Confidence

On the other hand, project managers must not underestimate their capacity to deliver as well. Even though overpromising is often the case, there are instances where vendors hesitate to bid for a project because they feel that either they do not have the resources to complete the project or they do not have the capabilities to actualize the outcomes. Of course, it is not the practice in many vendors who take outsourced projects to not bid for the same as many marketing heads never let go of the chance for new business. Rather the point here is that most project managers who are not confident of himself or herself or their teams balk from accepting these projects, as they are afraid of failure.

Moreover, in established and market leading companies, there is a false sense of complacency that arises from having a broad base of achievements which makes the vendors drop projects because they cannot risk their reputations because of failure on a single project. While this can be good business sense, the converse is also true wherein not taking up projects sometimes leads to the perceptions among clients that the vendor is not serious enough about their needs or is too arrogant to take on the project. Especially when one considers the present gloomy economic scenario, it is our opinion that not taking on projects that are viable is not a good idea. The operative term here is viable meaning that we are not suggesting that vendors take on unviable projects. On the contrary, the recommendation is that the project managers should overcome the fear of failure and take the step towards moving up the value chain.

Concluding Thoughts

The points made in this article propose that while overpromising is bad, underestimating is equally bad and hence; project managers must develop the knack of estimating and budgeting that would ensure that their projects meet client specifications and are on schedule. Considering the fact that more than half of all projects are usually behind schedule, it is indeed a tough ask for project managers to manage the projects. Therefore, as mentioned in the introduction, project managers have to adopt a scientific approach and practice the art of walking a tightrope. In conclusion, project management is to be practiced with a rigorous understanding of the concepts and an artistic means of managing the outcomes.


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