The Ring Project

Daniel Starr

Why the travails of Hobbits and Kings just might offer some real-life lessons for managing your project. The takeaway: stay focused on the destination (the outcome) and don’t stick to a single route (the plan of action).

When I recently re-read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I was seeking entertainment, not a lesson in project management. But lessons in project management are where you find them, and I couldn't help noticing the vastly different experiences Aragorn and Frodo had after their party split up at the end of the first book — and the ways in which the Ring Project paralleled many projects that I'd been involved with.
 
If we look at Aragorn and Frodo and consider who’s most likely to complete the project successfully, we’d almost certainly bet on the guy who's secretly the King, has friends and allies all over Middle-Earth, knows the place like the back of his hand, and is a skilled warrior traveling in the company of others like himself. And yet, he spends close to three hundred pages chasing hither and yon, fighting one battle after another.
 
Meanwhile, Frodo simply moves forward. He’s never been past the boundaries of the Shire, he’s not much of a fighter, he’s a stranger in some pretty strange lands, and he’s accompanied by his gardener and a creepy little creature who’s probably going to try and kill …

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Very funny, Scotty. Now beam down my clothes.

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