The Project Management Tree Swing Cartoon, Past and Present

The project management tree swing cartoon below is famous amongst those of us who have engaged in any kind of software project management. I first came across it in the late 1990s, when I managed small projects at a regional data communications company. I remember printing it out and hanging it in my cubicle, as a reminder of what not to do. I would read it as a reminder to keep my sense of humor in the midst of a frustrating project implementation.

A few months ago, I thought of it and searched online for it. Project management may not be as sexy as data science, but if you don’t properly manage the implementation of your data and systems, you won’t be “sexying” anything, much less taming your data! As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO).

I was fascinated to learn via Alan Chapman that the history of the project management tire swing analogy goes back to the 1960s in the UK. He points out that people readily attribute the images to their own discipline, whether that is marketing, management, engineering, manufacturing, maintenance, or customer service. I found the images from previous decades fun to read, although I was and am a bit disheartened to discover that this problem does not seem eradicable, but continues to morph from industry to industry over time.

Samuel Jack of Functional Fun writes that an entire industry has grown around the cartoons. Via Project Cartoon, you can buy posters or t-shirts of the swing cartoon, or create a custom version. Users have updated the cartoon to include open source, disaster recovery plans, and digg.

Do you have any project management stories you would like to share? Have you found this cartoon relevant to your industry or projects?


  1. Tim Clark says

    I wonder why this story keeps repeating itself despite the cartoon becoming so famous?


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