Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Why use Humour and Proverbs in your Projects?

I like to use humour and proverbs within my Projects for a number of reasons which I will expand on in this post but include:

  • to relieve tension
  • to show you are human
  • to act as a memory jogger
  • to aid communication
I will also mention the risks to be aware of when using humour which I have tried to convey in this cartoon.

Humour, Proverbs and Visual Images aid Project Manager Memory

Relieve tension?

Projects and Programmes are serious places, there is pressure to deliver within aggressive time-scales to achieve often important business cases within a temporary organisation thrust together for a number of months. Individuals can feel the pressure in different ways and sometimes this can boil over in heated words.

I find a bit of humour (even some of my poor efforts) can relieve tension whether in meetings with the team or within the pressure cooker of Project Board meetings.

Shows you are human?

As Project teams are normally built on a temporary basis you find yourself working with “strangers” and with the pressures, people can get certain perceptions of individuals. A joke or two shows that you are human and unless you offend (see risks below) can help build a better team spirit.

Acts as a memory jogger?

As a Project Manager you need to be able to think on your feet within meetings and discussions. There is reasonable scientific evidence that the use of humour, pictures and strap lines (proverbs) aids memory retention so that you can recall a key Project Management tip quickly.

Aids communication?

There are more than a few Projects where I have used proverbs to make a point and found them drip feed into team usage. So a strap line can aid communication I feel.  For example on one Project, when I heard team mates using the phrase “what isn't written hasn't been said”, I knew my message was getting across!

Projects - What isn't written hasn't been said


Project teams are often multinational these days and humour doesn't always translate well and there can be religious difficulties. So try and bear this in mind although I probably have made a few mistakes here so would like to apologise to current and former team mates, my intention is never to offend.

This is the message I am trying to convey in the main cartoon, you can use the humour to remember a key Project Management tip but you may decide not to use it in explanation!!


I believe there are many benefits to a bit of humour and proverbs within the cut and thrust of Project life and it probably doesn't do your health any harm either. But try and think before you open your mouth! 

Finally, if you want to see a little more on the scientific background to my memory retention claim or see a Project manual made entirely of my cartoons, have a look at this post.


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