The Project Management Witch Doctors

Glen at Herding Cats hits back hard (here) at one of the breed of “Project Management Impresarios”.  Not a bad label, though I like the term Witch Doctors myself (the Micklethwait and Wooldridge book is here, some second thoughts on the book’s ideas here).  Some of this stuff can be pretty wacky and verges on Gnosticism.

The arrant wankery Glen describes was quite popular during the heyday of big-bang ERP projects.  Not a surprise, because witch doctors usually pop up in big budget projects.  During those late 90’s projects, folks had the cash to pursue myriad pet theories.  I’ve also seen it in a number of other project types — KM and portal efforts seem particularly susceptible to “soft stuff” disease. 

It is amazing how quickly we can forget the basics in the quest to become more sophisticated and cunning.  Sure the “soft stuff” is important.  In fact, I believe that mastery of such “soft stuff” can be critical to leadership success.  But it isn’t the alpha and the omega that some make it out to be.  In projects, OCM tools and techniques are only means to an end — a successful project.


2 Responses

  1. Hi Paul,

    During the 90s I knew two consultants who were earning astronomical sums working on large ERP projects in the DC area. I remember being completely perplexed at how the work of hundreds (or more) of analysts and architects could be plugged into a “black box” proprietary system which would then generate a workable, business critical system. There confidence was inspiring in a way – but the wall sized diagrams made up of teeny-tiny boxes with 4pt type less so. The requirements and other documents were unreadable.

    Needless to say, each of these projects died painful and expensive deaths without implementation.

    Knowledge management and portal efforts are less expensive than ERP – but like you, I’ve seen the same “soft stuff” disease.

    Technology IS cool. But just because we CAN do it doesn’t mean that it’s worth the effort. What is worth the effort is a solution that makes the business sing. Blackberry anyone?

  2. […] quickly we’ve gone from complacency to urgency.  IMO, much organizational wankery that was tolerated — and even rewarded — a few years ago isn’t likely to […]

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