What Project Managers can Learn from Day Traders

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Wall StreetA Little bit about Day Traders

In the world of financial services, day traders have existed since the first days of formalized markets.  What distinguishes a day trader is that they have to close out all their positions every night.  Meaning, they start with everything in cash in the morning and end with everything in cash at night.

So, if I’m a day trader and I start with $1,000,000 in the morning and after I close out all my positions I have $1,200,000, I made 20% on the day.  If this happened, I would be an extraordinarily happy person.

A day trader will make thousands of trades in the course of a day.  They watch what’s happening on the market and try to get a sense of the direction it is going in, and with this sense stay one step ahead of the market.

If they see a gap between the price someone wants to buy a stock at and the price someone else wants to sell a stock at, the day trader will try and fill that gap and make their profit in the process.  It is a very fast moving world where one succeeds figuring out what’s happening before other people do.  If you get it right, you can make a lot of money.  If you get it wrong, you lose a lot of money.  And every day, at the close of the day, you know the score.
What Project Managers can Learn from Day Traders

Project Managers try and makes sense of what is happening on a project.  They understand where the project is supposed to go, they try and understand where the project is going, and they try to fill the gap so the project goes in the right direction.

Things to think about:

  • If you had to close your position every day, how would it look?
  • If you resolved everything you did in the course of a day into one metric, like a day trader does money, what would that metric be?
  • Would you want everyone on the project and at the company to know that metric?
  • How would that change what you do?

Inquiring minds want to know…


2 thoughts on “What Project Managers can Learn from Day Traders”

  1. User Avatar


    thanks. I agree, a good single metric allows everyone to know how they’re doing and track their progress.

    You’re absolutely right, the benefit of going beyond simple to-do lists with a trusted project manager are minimal.

    If you trust the PM, what good are all the tools? If you don’t trust the PM, what good are all the tools?


  2. Great connection! I’ve always felt that traders work super-efficiently – in part because of the 1-metric aspect as you pointed out.

    Similarly, it’s really hard to improve upon a simple to-do list for managing projects – even though you also need more features. It’s hard (but important) to maintain the parsimony of a list within a heavier weight project management tool.


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