A Monster’s Guide to Project Horrors

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

As we move into the season where the ghouls and goblins get more active--and the theoretical link to the afterworld is at its thinnest and most permeable--we start to wonder exactly what sort of monsters are lurking out there. What cosmic nastiness flits through the shadows, ready to descend on the unwary and unprepared? And how many of us might just be victims of those horrors before we finish out the month? A worthy question to ask, at least as far as our projects go.
True horror movies are deeply, frighteningly normal...right up until the exact time when they’re not. To a certain extent, this is exactly the problem with projects. They’re doing just fine right up until the point when they stop being anything close to fine, when you can no longer even see fine from here--or remember what it used to look like.
But what projects come to the attention of the project monsters? Where will the most vulnerable and susceptible project managers (most likely to be lying awake at night in terror)? If you were a project poltergeist or a goblin of particular ghoulish extraction, how would you know which projects to terrorize and which to let be? Because Forrest Gump was wrong: Life isn’t like a box of chocolates. There is no little guide to life that says, “Ooh, those are the ones with the caramel centers in them! Eat those!!!” We have to learn what’s …

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- John Lennon

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