The Delusional

Project Manager so out of touch with the realities of the project, that they are representing falsehoods to the stakeholders.


The core responsibility of a Project Manager is to report status on the project. This is called “Setting Expectations”, and “Meeting Expectations” is the yardstick by which project success is measured. A good Project Manager will set expectations with the stakeholders through a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, as well as their own professional experiences. The Delusional Project Manager, on the other hand, will base it solely on their instincts.

The following are the key phrases to look for when identifying The Delusional Project Manager:

  • “I have a bad feeling about this.”
  • “I don’t think we’re going to make this date”
  • “I think we’re going to be fine”
  • “I don’t see a problem.”
  • “This decision makes me uncomfortable.”

Notice the use of “I” and “me”: dead giveaways that their perception is based on themselves, rather than data gathered and analyzed.

It’s important to note the difference between The Delusional, The Pessimist and The Optimist Project Managers:

  • The Pessimist, based on their interpretation of quantitative and qualitative information, has formed the opinion that the project will fail.
  • The Optimist, based on their interpretation of quantitative and qualitative information, has formed the opinion that the project will succeed.
  • The Delusional, based on nothing but their own instincts, have formed an opinion regarding success or failure completely out of alignment with reality.

The Delusional is one of the few personalities that can sink entire projects all by themselves. You should be extremely concerned when The Delusional Project Manager is having private meetings with stakeholders, as the following can take place:

  1. They tell the stakeholders that all is lost, and that the project will never go to production, causing the stakeholders to cancel the project.
  2. They tell the stakeholders that everything is fine, and will hit all its dates, causing the stakeholder to be increasingly frustrated as dates are missed, leading to them canceling the project.


Fortunately, The Delusional Project Manager is fixable via a  two-step process:

  1. Ask them why they feel the way they feel.
  2. Show them quantitative and qualitative data that contradict their instincts.

The goal of asking them to articulate how they feel is to help them realize that their judgment is not based on anything tangible, but is instead just a subjective assessment based on their gut feelings. It is vitally important that they reach this conclusion on their own – they will not react well to being told that they have bad project management instincts. The technique is to continue to ask them “Why do you feel that way?” until you achieve a breakthrough.

Once they make this realization, present them with hard facts of the project. For example, if they say, “The quality of this product is going out the window,” present them with a graph showing how the bug count has been dropping steadily over the last few months. If they say, “We are going to be ready on the delivery date” present them with a list of incomplete tasks, and the historical rate of task completion that prove otherwise. At this point, it should simply be a matter of allowing reason and logic to take their course. If they remain delusional, simply repeat the process as many times as necessary.

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