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At a recent event, a man came over to introduce himself.  He explained that he was a project manager and wanted to “pick my brain on something”. I inquired about the kind of projects he typically engaged.

“Oh, system implementations with budgets of $1-2 million.”

It occurred to me at the time that project budget is a useless but commonly used metric. What does it tell us about the size or complexity of projects this gentleman runs? Nothing, for different organizations go about projects differently. Some throw money at it,  hire dedicated teams, buy the best equipment, and involve consultants. Others spend as little as possible  relying solely on internal resources, adding the project to a list of responsibilities for a few people within the organization. It is meaningless to compare the two projects on a basis of budget because the approach is so diverse.

Furthermore,  an argument can be made that the same project carried out on a strict budget is more challenging and speaks to the mastery of the project manager and abilities of his team. After all, which chef is more skilled, the one who prepares a delicious meal from a limited number of ingredients in a field kitchen or the one who whips up the same meal from a fully stocked pantry, in a restaurant kitchen with a crew of helpers?

The question on budgets is often posed in job interviews, but the truth is, you should never base your decision on the answer. This metric has no meaning and should not be used.

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