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.

Biggest PM Job in the world… ha!

While I appreciate Glen’s shout-out (here), it is the SAP project and program managers who have the big and tough jobs. As Glen notes, managing SAP projects isn’t for the faint of heart.  Our engagement leaders are the ultimate guarantor of SAP’s brand value (which has a solid 10% CAGR since we started our PM initiative in 2003, BTW).  These colleagues have tons of talent and responsibility.  

They certainly have my team’s respect.  We demonstrate that respect by not claiming to promulgate “best” practices.  Sure, what the Global PMO delivers should be “good” practice; however, our material has its greatest value as a foundation for innovation.  Truly best practices come from the field looking at our content and saying “this approach is OK, but how about if we added/changed/deleted this?”

How NOT to explain the value of your PMO...

How NOT to explain the ways one's PMO adds value to the field.

Don’t over-interpret the PMBOK Guide…

I just got turned on to Glen Alleman’s Herding Cats blog via Bas’s Shared Blog.  Bas’s link was to one post, but Glen’s post on Mis-Misinterpretations of PMBOK caught my eye (the comments are a good read also).  Glen hits on one of my favorite mis-steps: claiming a methodology isn’t PMBOK-compliant because it isn’t structured according the process groups (hint: the project life cycle discussion is in Chapter 2 of the Third Edition). 

Getting caught up in memorizing and regurgitating such industry standards is a pet peeve.  It is akin to being an expert on Black Letter Law: how interesting or useful is it to be an expert on something basic and elementary?

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