What does project management mean to me – a Project Manager’s sermon

I have a friend

By Ugo Micoli

I have a friend, his name is P.M.

I call him like that, because Project Management is too long. In my address book I wrote “P.M.” and I know the meaning.

We met when I was very young, I don’t remember where. He was a sly and a well organized guy. On my part I was fascinated by how toys were functioning, and why.  Strangely enough, we made acquaintance but we did not know our names for long. We talked about serious topics such as history, different peoples and countries, how persons act, things for teenagers you know, we were smart students and we liked to read very much. But we liked fun, people, girls, sports, cars, airplanes and spacecrafts as well …

Fun plus seriuosness was the trademark of our friendship.

I remember when I had to decide my path in the future. I liked many things and I was very doubtful. He said: “Hey, Ugo. Remember that your Scope is the most important thing. Set your objectives, then organize. And, given the scope, always people first! You will find the right procedures.”

Thinking about it, he was a wise guy.

When I decided to became an Aerospace Engineer, he come to university with me. While studying, he helped me to create a think tank about how people interact in science and technology, the importance of teamwork. It was our first business together.

I loved the fact that, in ancient Greek, the word τέχνη (téchne) means art.

He was enthusiastic about Aristotle. We talked often, in the spare time after studies and some fun and work, about the so called principle of no-contradiction, or the importance of roles and authority by competence. He said that philosopher was his ancestor.

One day he decided, I don’t know why, to tell me his name. I remember very clearly. We were attending a lesson about aerospace projects.

And then he introduced some relatives as well. I remember a guy, called PERT. I thought he was absurd. He took the critical path very easily, you know.

But I felt comfortable with those people. We started to collaborate soon. I fell in love with a blonde, her surname in the gang was WBS. Well structured… if you know what I mean. And in control of every possible breakdown, not the hysterical doll type…

I did strange works as students do, I got my Masters’ Degree, had various experiences and decided to be an independent professional in the end. On my LinkedIn profile you can see the details of my story, but you can see I worked with P.M. soon as well, in many successful initiatives we built.

And anyway, always “people first!”.

My friendship with P.M. was a datum in my life and I must say that in many occasions he got me out of serious troubles.

There are times when I help him too, because he is the kind of role model and today everybody wants to be him or pretend to know him. Someone says he will save the world and asks him to certificate they are clever guys.

Someone, instead, says he is old, we are in the complexity era and all is relative and goals are found along the way and so on.

We laugh at these things. There are nights when we ponder on everything we shared in the past and make projects for the future. We have no regrets. But many goals to accomplish. Our fellowship can’t be broken.

So, what is the moral of the story?

Discover it by yourselves, my friends. But because you are my friends, you are friends with P.M. as well.

Remember, when you close this page, do not think friendships are cheap. Take care of them, there is always something to learn, and you will be rewarded.

As far I’m concerned, there are times when I see my friend’s face, recently, and I am confused. He looks like me, in the mirror.

P.S. This post is published as part of a first ever project management related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at exactly the same time. Seventy Six (76!) bloggers from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a blogging contribution and the fruit of their labor is now (literally NOW) available all over the web. The complete list of all participating blogs is found here so please go and check them out!

Update: there is a follow-up! Go to next article…


24 Comments on “What does project management mean to me – a Project Manager’s sermon”

  1. Projectmgmt says:

    Absolutely loved this piece – one of my favourites so far – thanks for sharing Ugo :)


  2. Excellent – thank you


  3. Craig says:

    The humour is lovely. The laconic style easy to connect with. Great story.


  4. Paul Henry says:

    Thanks, Ugo. Those words ring very true.


  5. Reda Alioua says:

    Ugo, thank you for that wisdom, about a month ago or so, when I’ve started participating on the PM forum, we have been having a friction, but today you are my friend, because I know now that you are what you seem to be, an authentic person with a genuine high intellectual and professional integrity with above average open-mindedness. Reda.


  6. PM and I never met until a few short years ago, our friendship is founded through our area of greatest passion and commonality: people.

    Ugo, I love that you found your life calling through your “friend.” You both serve each other well. You are a prime example of how versatile and useful having such a tried and true friend can be, when paired with the right minds. Kind of like perfect pairings of fine wines and vintage cheeses.

    I like your taste in friends!


  7. I have known PM all of my life – it'[s just at different times in different roles, PM had a different name. PM says I am SO like him, because my Christmas Shopping is always completed before the end of summer. — Ugo, I love it. I love analogies of any kind. I wrote on on how IVRs work called, “A Day in the Life of a Call”, explaining that an IVR has many places to exit and get back on – a bit like an interstate or freeway. Keep it up – I’ll keep reading! — MP


  8. Shim Marom says:

    Hi Ugo, thanks very much for your contribution to the #pmFlashBlog initiative.

    I have decided to review each of the posts and find, in each the key point that appeals the most to me.

    I love the humor in your post, it is fantastic. And as for the serious stuff, the key point for me is in the following paragraph:

    “Remember, when you close this page, do not think friendships are cheap. Take care of them, there is always something to learn, and you will be rewarded.”

    At the end of the day it is all about people and the relationship we build with them.

    Thanks again,



    • Shim, You had a great idea and the initiative was perfectly managed by you. So I have to thank you. About people-first, yes, this is my experience and one of my basic values in personal and professional life, at the point that I couldn’t see the difference, and work becames sort of an art: you decide the importance hierarchy of various items along your day, in the morning, and you feel free.


  9. Jeff Porterfield says:

    Ugo my very dear friend,
    I have learned much about you over the past months, but now I see that you have not so secretly been teaching me about your friend. “Always People” – that has a familiar ring to it, I wonder where the son of seaman could have learned about that. Or you may have heard the army version, “Mission first, People Always”. You have met many challenges and succeeded. In the vernacular of the Corps of Engineers, we say “Essayon”, ( Let us try ).


    • Yes, I am the son of the seaman, and a seaman myself always in this Middle Earth life! And “Mission first, People Always” perfectly fits to me.
      Friendship… I agree it’s something related to respect, inspiration and fellowship, something going beyond the alienating modern concept of “work” and even teamwork.
      I just wanted to rise a point of general interest in our profession, the meaning itself of our work, when it … well, works!
      Thank you Jeff.


  10. Ugo, Thanks for sharing a nice blog. I am happy to see a great writer in you who can tell a very dry story in an interesting way! I liked your presentation as well. This way I hope you will meet your friends Father-in-law, MIL, BIL and rest of the relatives as well. Great learning while having fun :)


  11. After reading your blog, I remembered my days in Philips ASA Lab, Eindhoven. I was there during the Millennium countdown( Dec1999). During Christmas the PM came home with a box full of pleasant surprises! I wasn’t aware of that culture. A memorable gesture nonetheless! Thanks Joost, if you are reading this!


  12. hennyportman says:

    Great post, I really enjoyed it. To invest in people close to you is really important. Maybe a lesson for business units too, I see to many examples where the human touch is lacking.


  13. You are right, Henny. Yours is an important point. People are not machines.


  14. […] What does project management mean to me – a Project Manager’s sermon | Micoli Partners […]


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