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It's tough being a project manager; if anyone needs inspiration to keep going with leading our projects and teams, it’s us. When you find yourself constantly slamming into one brick wall after another, staying positive and focused gets quite difficult.

We’re all in need of some inspiration and what better way than with some truth-telling, motivational, and funny project management quotes? To that end, I have compiled some of the best quotes here.

And you (nearly) always sound smart if you can quote other people who manage to say exactly what you meant, in just a few succinct, simple words. Without further ado, find the list of project management quotes below!

Best Project Management Quotes

I've organized the inspirational quotes into a few different categories, so you can find exactly what you're looking for:

For more in-depth wisdom about the field of project management, check out these project management books, where you'll find advice no matter what career stage you're in or how experienced you are as a PM.

Project Management

First off, some project management quotes about the discipline itself:

project management quote from Joy Gumz

1. “Operations keep the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward.” ~ Joy Gumz

2. “Project management is like juggling three balls – time, cost and quality. Program management is like a troupe of circus performers standing in a circle, each juggling three balls and swapping balls from time to time.” ~ G. Reiss

3. “Project management can be defined as a way of developing structure in a complex project, where the independent variables of time, cost, resources and human behavior come together.” ~ Rory Burke

4. “Being a Project Manager is like being an artist, you have the different colored process streams combining into a work of art” ~ Greg Cimmarrusti

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Leadership

Leadership refers to the ability to initiate vision and direction, to empower and motivate people to complete successful projects, and to unite others towards a common purpose.

It’s a critical component of project management and has been the source of some great project management quotes.

5. “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” ~ Max De Pree

6. “One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” ~ Arnold Glasow

project management quote from Peter F Drucker

7. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”~ Peter F. Drucker

8. “Leadership offers an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, no matter what the project.” ~ Bill Owens

9. “The only real training for leadership is leadership.” ~ Antony Jay

10. “The key to successful leadership today is influence not authority.” ~ Kenneth Blanchard

11. “The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.” ~ Warren Bennis

12. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” ~ John Quincy Adams

13. “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

14. “People are more easily led than driven.” ~ David Harold Fink

15. “Inventories can be managed but people must be led.” ~ Ross Perot

project management quote from Jerry McClain

16. “The best example of leadership is leadership by example.” ~ Jerry McClain

17. “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.” ~ Charles Kettering

18. “There are three essentials to leadership: humility, clarity and courage.” ~ Fuchan Yuan

19. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” ~ Nelson Mandela

20. “To command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less.” ~ Andre Malraux

21. “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” ~ Douglas MacArthur

22. “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” ~ Warren Bennis

23. “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.” ~ Brian Tracy

24. “Inspire your people to think like entrepreneurs, and whatever you do, treat them like adults. The hardest taskmaster of all is a person’s own conscience, so the more responsibility you give people, the better they will work for you.” ~ Richard Branson

25. “The most challenging one to manage is you. “Self-leadership” isn’t a concept that most of us think about all that often. Yet leadership capability relates as much to how we lead ourselves as how we lead others. Some of the greatest barriers we face along the path of pushing our ideas to fruition lie within us.” ~ Scott Belsky

26. “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” ~ Ken Kesey

27. “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

28. “True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well.” ~ Bill Owens

29. “Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” ~ Tom Peters

30. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

31. “Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.” ~ Chinese Proverb

32. “…the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” ~ Ralph Nader

33. “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

34. “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” ~ Jim Rohn

35. “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” ~ Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

36. “Management is a position that is granted; leadership is a status that is earned.” ~ K. Scott Derrick

37. “The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” ~ Tony Blair

38. “What chance gathers she easily scatters. A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

39. "Of all the things I've done, the most vital is coordinating the talents of those who work for us and pointing them toward a certain goal." ~ Walt Disney

Here are some related career quotes if you’re looking for more in this same vein.

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Planning

Planning is critical to project management, the way not having a fear of heights is critical to being a pilot.

Having a project plan for how to get things done is the foundation to delivering any project well, no matter the methodology.

40. “A project without a critical path is like a ship without a rudder.” ~ D. Meyer

41. “If you don’t know where you are going. How can you expect to get there?” ~ Basil S. Walsh

42. “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

43. “Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan.” ~ Winston Churchill

44. “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” ~ Winston Churchill

45. “Adventure is just bad planning.” ~ Roald Amundsen

46. “Bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” ~ Proverb

project management quote proverb

47. “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow” ~ Proverb

48. “First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” ~ Aristotle

49. “Our plans miscarry because they have no aim.” ~ Lucius Seneca

50. “It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.” ~ Winston Churchill

51. “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes, but no plans.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

project management quote from Denis Waitley

52. “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” ~ Denis Waitley

53. “Happy people plan actions, they don’t plan results.” ~ Dennis Wholey

54. “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” ~ Anatole France

55. “It’s a bad plan that admits of no modification.” ~ Publilius Syrus

56. “Long-range planning works best in the short term.” ~ Euripides

57. “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” ~ Gloria Steinem

58. “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood – make big plans, aim high in hope and work.” ~ Daniel H. Burnham

59. "Trying to manage a project without project management is like trying to play a football game without a game plan" ~ K. Tate

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Communication

It has been said that communication is the lifeblood of every organization, but nowhere is this truer than in project management.

Communication is what connects the various stakeholders together: client, project manager, project team members, management, and the entire organization.

If there’s anything our experience of project management has taught us, it is that communication is far easier said than done, a fact these project management quotes illustrate:

60. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

61. “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

62. “Brevity is the soul of wit.” ~ William Shakespeare

63. “What is not on paper has not been said.” ~ Anonymous

project management quote from Brian Tracy

64. “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” ~ Brian Tracy

65. “Ensure your documentation is short and sharp and make much more use of people-to-people communication.” ~ Bentley and Borman

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Failure

It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but nonetheless true: everyone fails at one time or the other. Projects fail too. Which perhaps explains where there are so many great project management quotes about failure!

66. “If an IT project works the first time, it was in your nightly dreams. Time to wake up and get to work.” ~ Cornelius Fichtner

67. “No major project is ever installed on time, within budget, with the same staff that started it.” ~ Edwards, Butler, Hill and Russell

project management quote from Sven Goran Eriksson

68. “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” ~ Sven Goran Eriksson

69. “Failure is nature’s plan to prepare you for great responsibilities.” ~ Napoleon Hill

70. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” ~ Henry Ford

71. “Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.” ~ Roger Von Oech

72. “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.” ~ Thomas Edison

73. “In poorly run projects, problems can go undetected until the project fails. It’s like the drip … drip … drip of a leaky underground pipe. Money is being lost, but you don’t see it until there is an explosion.” ~ Joy Gumz

project management quote from Tom Krause

74. “There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them.” ~ Tom Krause

75. “A man may fall many times, but he won’t be a failure until he says that someone pushed him.” ~ Elmer Letterman

76. “Success builds character, failure reveals it” ~ Dave Checketts

77. “In NASA, we never punish error. We only punish the concealment of error.” ~ Al Siepert

78. “I feel that the most important requirement in success is learning to overcome failure. You must learn to tolerate it, but never accept it.” ~ Reggie Jackson

79. “It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy of life lies in having no goal to reach.” ~ Benjamin Mays

project management quote about blaming others from Joy Gumz

80. “If you always blame others for your mistakes, you will never improve.” ~ Joy Gumz

81. “If an IT project works the first time, it was a very small and simple project.” ~ Cornelius Fichtner

82. “Know when to cut your losses if necessary. Don’t let your desire to succeed be the enemy of good judgment. If Napoleon had left Moscow immediately, he may have returned with a salvageable army.” ~ Jerry Manas

83. “If you have never recommended canceling a project, you haven’t been an effective project manager.” ~ Woody Williams

84. “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” ~ Winston Churchill

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Teamwork

Teamwork has inspired some great quotes on project management. Not surprising as it’s perhaps the single most important determinant of project success. Put a great team together and get the team work right, and 80 percent of your problem is solved.

85. “Get the right people. Then no matter what all else you might do wrong after that, the people will save you. That’s what management is all about.” ~ Tom DeMarco

86. “Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” ~ Mattie Stepanek

project management quote from Michael Jordan

87. “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” ~ Michael Jordan

88. “As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” ~ Amy Poehler

89. “… Learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy.” ~ Don Tapscott

90. “Most success depends on colleagues, on the team. People at the top have large egos, but you must never say ‘I’: it’s always ‘we’.” ~ Frank Lampl

project management quote from Woody Williams

91. “We cannot drive people; we must direct their development. Teach and lead.” ~ Woody Williams

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Vision and Goals

Visions and goals provide strategic direction for a project. While vision is what lets you plan for the future of that project with wisdom or imagination, goals, being measurable, are what tell you whether you have achieved your vision. Here are some insightful quotes about both aspects:

92. “All things are created twice; first mentally; then physically.  The key to creativity is to begin with the end in mind, with a vision and a blue print of the desired result.” ~ Stephen Covey

93. “People are more inclined to be drawn in if their leader has a compelling vision. Great leaders help people get in touch with their own aspirations and then will help them forge those aspirations into a personal vision.” ~ John Kotter

project management quote from Diana Scharf

94. “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” ~ Diana Scharf

95. “Any person who selects a goal in life which can be fully achieved, has already defined his own limitations” ~ Cavett Robert

96. “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” ~ Confucius

97. “Effective leaders help others to understand the necessity of change and to accept a common vision of the desired outcome.” ~ John Kotter

98. “Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

project management quote from Joel Barker

99. “Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.” ~ Joel Barker

100. “First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” ~ Napoleon Hill

101. “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” ~ Jack Welch

102. “I think there is something, more important than believing: Action! The world is full of dreamers, there aren’t enough who will move ahead and begin to take concrete steps to actualize their vision.” ~ W. Clement Stone

103. “Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.” ~ Omar Bradley

104. “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” ~ Albert Einstein

105. “It’s easy to see, hard to foresee.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

106. “Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” ~ Gail Devers

107. “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” ~ John C. Maxwell

project management quote from Jonathan Swift

108. “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” ~ Jonathan Swift

109. “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” ~ Audre Lorde

110. “With vision there is no room to be frightened. No reason for intimidation. It’s time to march forward! Let’s be confident and positive!” ~ Charles R. Swindoll

111. “The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get.” ~ Jim Rohn

112. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” ~ Proverbs 29:18

113. “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” ~ Mark Twain

114. “The causation of great organizations is the desire to make meaning. Having that desire doesn’t guarantee that you’ll succeed, but it does mean that if you fail, at least you failed doing something worthwhile.” ~ Guy Kawasaki

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Management

Managing teams can be tough in an organization. As project managers we’re usually not our team’s line managers, which means we have to be more creative about the way we lead our teams. Here’s some inspiration on how:

115. “Managing to have a sense of humor makes it a lot easier to manage people.” ~ Steve Wilson

116. “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

project management quote from John D Rockefeller

117. “Good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” ~ John D. Rockefeller

118. “The secret of successful managing is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the four guys who haven’t made up their minds.” ~ Casey Stengel

119. “Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.” ~ Henry Mintzberg

120. “Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing.” ~ Colin Powell

121. “Managing senior programmers is like herding cats.” ~ Dave Platt

project management quote from Agha Hasan Abedi

122. “The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.” ~ Agha Hasan Abedi

123.  “Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

124. “When I give a minister an order, I leave it to him to find the means to carry it out.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

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Deadlines

Deadlines: the dreaded “D” word of project management. Any project manager who hasn’t had a sleepless night and/or nightmare about missing one hasn’t handled a proper project.

And then of course, there’s project estimates, project timelines, and those other time related nightmares. These quotes for project management capture many of the challenges we face:

125. “You may con a person into committing to an unreasonable deadline, but you cannot bully them into meeting it.” ~ Edwards, Butler, Hill, and Russell

126. “Projects progress quickly until they become 90% complete; then remain at 90% complete forever.” ~ Edwards, Butler, Hill and Russell

project management quote from Peter Drucker

127. “Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

128. “You may delay, but time will not.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

project management quote from Henry Ford

129. “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.” ~ Henry Ford

130. “Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.” ~ Charles Caleb Colton

131. “Beware the time-driven project with an artificial deadline.” ~ M. Dobson

132. “It is useless to desire more time if you are already wasting what little you have.” ~ James Allen

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Rewards and Recognition

Acknowledging the good work done by our teams is important to getting the most out of them. Rewards and recognition not only motivates the team, it enhances the project manager’s leadership qualities too. Here are some great project management quotes to inspire you:

133. “Good leaders do not take on all the work themselves; neither do they take all the credit.” ~ Woody Williams

134. “If, on your team, everyone’s input is not encouraged, valued, and welcome, why call it a team?” ~ Woody Williams

135. “True motivation comes from achievement, personal development, job satisfaction, and recognition.” ~ Frederick Herzberg

136. “Lavish credit on anyone and everyone who helped you the least bit.” ~ Tom Peters

project management quote about rewards and motivation from woody williams

137. “Rewards and motivation are an oil change for project engines. Do it regularly and often.” ~ Woody Williams

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Sometimes, You Need More Than A Good Quote.

The life of a project manager is anything but simple. On a daily basis, you straddle the worlds of artists, technicians, accountants, HR professionals, freelancers, agents, CEOs, investors, and multiple other stakeholders.

Let’s face it. In this fast-paced, digitally-driven world, a good quote can only take you so far. A good lesson with roots in the real world, on the other hand, can open a world of opportunities.

If you’re looking for inspiration as a project manager, check out our online course. Our expert-led, relevant, and practical course is designed to equip you to meet the daily challenges of project management, evolving as a professional in the big, wild world of DPM.

Advice For Project Managers

And finally, some great advice for the project manager. Each person has their own philosophy and leadership style of course, but I think we can all learn a thing or two from these project management quotes:

138. “Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.” ~ Colin Powell

139. “Be candid with everyone.” ~ Jack Welch

140. “Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans: it’s lovely to be silly at the right moment.” ~ Horace

141. “My personal philosophy is not to undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.” ~ Edwin Land

project management quote from Meister Eckhart

142. “The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.” ~ Meister Eckhart

143. “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” ~ Albert Einstein

144. “In this business, by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself. Unless you’re running scared all the time, you’re gone.” ~ Bill Gates

145. “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” ~ Jack Welch

146. “Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.” ~ Thomas A. Edison

147. “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” ~ John Galbrait

148. “Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can.” ~ Paul Tournier

149. “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” ~ Dr. Linus Pauling

150. “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

151. “Assume responsibility for outcomes as well as for the process and people you work with. How you achieve results will shape the kind of person you become.” ~ C.K. Prahalad

152. “Progress doesn’t come from early risers — progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.” ~ Robert Heinlein

153. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Peter Hendrick Sharp

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Ben Aston
By Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedpm.com. I've been in the industry for more than 20 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony. I'm a Certified Scrum Master, PRINCE2 Practitioner and productivity nut!