Misfits of project
Content and Introduction
e-mail from X-City
23 minutes thought on how to choose project management training
Flash - Project Management and History (2) – USA, 1862
Ok guys, in view of the
length of this piece, maybe “Flash” isn’t really appropriate …
Today, we take some
lessons (especially in organization and human factors) from a very rare
practical book published in 1862, i.e., during the American civil war: `Summary
of the Art of War – written expressly for and dedicated to The U.S Volunteer
Army´ by Emil Schalk, A.O.
As Mr Schalk wrote, `It
was written for the citizen soldier and officer.´
The book was obviously
written under the influence of the strong XIX century’s American
practicality; in fact, the author wanted `…simply to fill up the void
that exists, by a popular work treating those military matters, of easy
understanding even to the civilian who has never connected with military
We should not forget
that at that time society was quite different from now. Besides,
comparatively few texts dealt with management and even practical military
matters (and/or they weren’t easily available).
Organizing a volunteer
army and bringing it to full efficiency was no simple feat.
elements [composing an army] must be joined with an organization to permit
of their simultaneous action.´
lesson: an organization in itself (it
does not matter how well conceived) is of no use
unless all its elements are able to act simultaneously and
harmonically to reach the goal.
seems to be very simple but … how many organizations are able to do that,
about psychological factors? Are the personnel motivated and focused on the
goal and the absolute necessity of a simultaneous action?
simultaneous action is possible only by submitting them to one will;
therefore an army is commanded by one person, and must be commanded by one
person only, and not by two or more.´
mess is allowable: there must be one boss with
the necessary authority. How often does this happen? How many
projects fail due to missing authority?
orders of the commander must be executed by the elements composing the army.
The commander cannot give orders for each element separately; therefore our
elements should be formed into a certain number of bodies, and their
commanders only [originally in italic] should receive orders from the
commander is going to report to the commander-in-chief, obviously. In
Prince2, we could say the Project Manager reports to the
Executive (e.g., the program manager). In ancient times, one would have said
that the general reported to the king, i.e., the man with final authority
same applies to `under-commanders´ of other bodies (regiments-teams),
i.e., in our case team leaders, for instance. This means
once a team is assigned to the project, it must do
as the project manager says; “strange” behaviours on the team
leaders’ part should not be tolerated.
“Orders should not be given separately” means everyone knows the situation,
plans, and so on;
it means problems can be found early, too, not to forget that no excuses (“I
did not know”) may be found.
will´: will, not something else. Therefore, please do not forget
team-working is wonderful but … in the end the
project manager and other figures of authority must exercise their authority.
Otherwise, how could the organization’s elements act simultaneously to reach
number of those under-commanders one chief can attend is restricted.
Experience proves that the number should be less than three or four, and not
more than eight or ten.´
you ever read something like this? Many books and articles describe
everything about teams, but … how many subordinates (leaders themselves) can
a boss successfully attend?
or now, it is the same: men (and women) have not changed since then.
have precious advice here: the manager of a
project should attend no more than eight or ten managers, better if only
three; on his/her part, each of those managers, should attend no
more than … and so on.
Organization, planning and the “project manager”
organization of an army is different in nearly every country, and it is
hardly possible to find one that is faultless.´
this has not changed much: all too often people try to re-invent warm water.
Even if every organization has its necessities,
is it really necessary to re-invent continuously what is largely available?
more the organization of an army is complete,
the more the command is facilitated; the order given at the head passes in a
few moments through the whole army, and all the parts of this great mass
work like one machine; but the command has only put all those forces to
work; the work itself must be assigned beforehand.´
the parts must work like one machine and …
team-members should know in advance what is to be done and ready (and
capable) to do it; no “I want it for yesterday” here!
`Besides, the machine must be kept in the best possible order; in other
words, an army must be provided with ammunition and provisions; if it
marches, the roads must be pointed out to the chief of every division or
army corps, the time of the different movements determined … orders for
marching given, the place of each corps … assigned … in general and for each
of the smaller parts in particular.´
factors: take constantly care of your
organization, i.e., of your men/women.
and planning: not only should everyone know their tasks,
they should also get all the directions they may
need to deal successfully with it. How often is this forgotten,
is quite evident that the commander-in-chief of an army cannot attend to all
these details; therefore he has another general under him, who is called the
chief of the general staff …
there are others [duties of the general staff] which consists in a through
study of the theatre of war … providing of the most complete and correct
maps, the working out of the general plan of campaign, the special plans …´
we have what in modern terms could be called the Project Manager. The
commander-in-chief is the equivalent of the Executive in Prince2 (the guy
with final authority), the chief of the general staff is the
equivalent of the Project Manager.
we could put “Responsible of the PMO (Project Management Office)” in place
of chief of the general staff.
chief of staff / project manager is in charge of planning, but not only of
that; never forget that planning is only one of
the project manager’s tasks.
Morale and simultaneous action
`Generally speaking, the strength of an army depends on its number, the
right proportion of the three arms [infantry, cavalry and artillery], the
confidence of the troops in their leader, and the general character of the
men who compose the army.´
big organization does not mean better results in itself: for instance, an IT
firm with too many developers and not enough testers will not perform as
well as a smaller and better organized firm.
personnel must trust their leader,
i.e., the project manager must be a leader, too. People must be sure he/she
is going to lead to success the project even under difficult circumstances.
A professional is needed,
for only a professional who knows his/her business is going to be trusted to
such a degree. Above all, popularity in itself in never sufficient, history
is proof of that; it is trust and esteem which are needed here.
good men/women, nothing can be achieved.
good project manager can rectify the situation, but under such circumstances
he/she needs more authority.
that we know the elements and how they are united, we must see how they are
disposed, to execute the order of their commander for a simultaneous or
we have seen, represent forces capable of doing a certain amount of work in
a certain length of time. The work done, exhaustion will follow for another
length of time, till the strength of the men is re-established by food and
Shalk is open-minded: organizations
must be capable of simultaneous action, and also of a more relaxed type of
action, i.e., they must be flexible;
we will see another reason why this is important.
(and women) can only deliver so much for so long:
maybe they can work twenty hours per day once, but then they need recreation
(food) and rest.
Acting differently would mean to doom the project and damage the firm’s most
important asset – its people.
an engagement, the exhaustion of our forces arises from several causes - the
fatigue of the men …. Therefore we conclude that, if all our men commence
work at the same time, and all act simultaneously, their action will be
short and their exhaustion will be simultaneous; if, on the other hand, they
act but in small parties, and one party after the other, their work will be
done successively, their action will be long, and total exhaustion will only
follow after a length of time.´
Note the use of the term `work´: American practicality making use of
Fatigue: never ever forget your
technicians/engineers/hard hats/whoever are men and women.
Simultaneous and intense action can’t be sustained for a lengthy time.
follows that simultaneous action should not be the exclusive choice; during
a project, there should be some moments in which at least some of the teams
are assigned less demanding tasks.
Let’s suppose there are nine teams involved in the project. Those teams
should be able to operate in a simultaneous and intense action for one week,
for example; but … the week after at least three (this is just an example)
teams should be assigned some less demanding tasks, e.g., a combined task of
just them or even team-tailored tasks; next time, it would be other three
teams which would be assigned less demanding tasks. Besides, in a project
there are usually many tasks which require `successive´ and lengthy action.
is really important is: in any case, do
not press your people too much without real
necessity: be ready to say no to the customer or to other
organizations involved in your project.
Continues with "Tip - 23 minutes thought on how
to choose project management training" ...
“Misfits of project management” is free and
can be freely forwarded: some healthy fun is necessary in these modern
Being an ironic newsletter, it reflects only
ideas. “Answers” or assertions that are not between inverted commas [‘….’]
are not to be considered as “true” answers or assertions: that is only a way
to express ironically what is perceived.
We make use of another set of inverted commas
[“….”]: those are no quotations at all, just a literary device of ours to
make concepts clearer.
If you desire to contribute with your
experiences or ideas, please drop us an e-mail at