Lazy Project Managers are the Best

Posted by Kevin Brady on Fri 4th September 2009 at 11:31 AM, Filed in Project Management

This title does not mean:-

Project managers are the best through doing absolutely nothing


Projects Managers who are Lazy are stupid.

Such managers would have woefully short careers

I am referring to the kind of clever laziness which leads to Project Management Success. I like to call this “Productive Laziness”.
So what is “Productive Laziness”?

Its all about a more focused approach to Project Management and the exercising of our efforts where it really matters, rather than rushing around like headless chickens involving ourselves in unimportant, non-critical activities that others can better address, or which do not need addressing at all in some cases.

So what’s the proof that Project Managers who are “productively Lazy” are the Jedi cast we should be seeking out to run our projects? The proof comes from two sources:-

Pareto Principle

The first is the Pareto Principle often referred to as the 80/20 rule. For those less familiar with this old chestnut the rules states:-

80% of the consequences stem from 20% of the causes.

For example it is commonly known that 20% of clients are responsible for 80% of sales. This principle is vital to the understanding of why productively lazy project managers are so good at their jobs.

They only focus on the 20% that matters

It is important to understand that of all the things that happen during a day only 20% really matters and delivers 80% of the projects outcomes you are aiming for. If you want to be productively lazy identify and focus on that 20%. It’s key to being a great Project Manager.

Helmuth von Molkte Officer Selection Criteria

I am an avid reader of military history and it has always fascinated me how the battles against the German Army in WWII where the allies were victorious, the Germans were always outnumbered 5 to 1. The key reason for the German Armies superior fighting capability came from its outstanding military leadership and an early focus on promoting “productively lazy officers”.
In 1857 Helmuth von Molkte was given the position Chief of the Prussian Grosser Generalstab (military staff) which he held for 30 years. He is the main person in German military history responsible for changing the Prussian arms tactics, communications, training and army mobilisation. However, for me the biggest contribution made was training and selection of officers which in WWII was the key reason for this 5 to 1 battle attrition rate. Molkte divided his officers into four groups:-

Type A Officers – Mentally dull and physically lazy. These were given repetitive and unchallenging tasks to perform. They had reached the career peak in the army.

Type B Officers – Mentally Bright and physically energetic, were considered to be obsessed with micromanagement and would, as a result, be poor leaders. Promotion was possible over a period of time but not to the status of commanding officer of the General Staff. These officers were the best at making sure orders were carried out and thoughtfully addressing all the detail.

Type C Officers – These were mentally dull but physically energetic, were considered to be somewhat dangerous. To Moltke, they were officers who required constant supervision and an unacceptable overhead and distraction. He believed they created problems faster than could be managed. Such officers were considered so much trouble that they were dismissed.

Type D Officers – Mentally bright and yet physically lazy officers were the ones Moltke felt could and should take the highest levels of command. These officers were clever enough to see what needed to be done but were also motivated by an inherent laziness to find the easiest, simplest way to achieve what was required. Put in a more positive way, they would know how to be successful through the most efficient deployment of effort. In effective they were “Productively Lazy”

“Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a Lazy man: he is sure to find an easy way of doing it.”
Walter Chrysler

So taking the learning’s from Moltke and Pareto I believe smart lazy people have a real edge. The successful Lazy Project Manager is all about applying these principles in the delivery and management of projects. If you’re reading this post you’re certainly not stupid so you have already got one half of the requirement to becoming a successful Project Manager. All you need to do is practice your lazy skills and your projects will be successful and chances of promotion enhanced.

If you want to find out more about the science of Lazy Project Management then get the excellent book The Lazy Project Manager by Peter Taylor who is the originator of the concept of “Productive Laziness”

The Lazy Project Manager

This entry has been viewed 1742 times.


Thanks for the reference Kevin


‘Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.’
Robert Heinlein

Posted by Peter Taylor - The Lazy Project Manager  on Thu 17th September 2009 at 01:51 PM | #

Despite his title of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, Peter Taylor is in fact a dynamic and commercially astute professional who has achieved notable success in project management, program management and the professional development of project managers: currently as Director of a PMO at Siemens PLM Software, a global supplier of product lifecycle management solutions. He is an accomplished communicator and leader; always adopting a proactive and business-focused approach and he is a professional speaker with City Speakers International.
He is also the author of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ book (Infinite Ideas 2009) – for more information -  - you can also subscribe to a series of free podcasts on iTunes (The Lazy Project Manager).

Posted by Kevin Brady  on Thu 17th September 2009 at 09:41 PM | #


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