PINO-cchio Projects

David Schmaltz is a project manager in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Too many projects resemble a trance-like state, contingent on ignoring a host of 'iffy ifs.' We can’t take these Projects In Name Only (PINOs) at face value. We must peer inside to see their context in order to understand what they might actually be, and what they might be capable of becoming.

This is the first of a series of articles on the unspeakable element of projects, the philosophy of project work. While much gets published about how-to techniques and methods, much less has been written delving into the often curious ways we talk about this work. The words and the music often mismatch in practice. Much remains unsaid, perhaps unspeakable.

Ask anyone you meet what they’re working on, and you’ll quickly learn that they’re assigned to a project, and often many more than one. Listen a little more deeply as they describe what they’re doing, and you should be forgiven if you find yourself a little confused. You’ll learn that their so-called project fails to satisfy many of the criteria necessary to qualify as a project. They’ll describe a PINO — Project In Name Only. Don’t be misled by these PINO-cchio efforts.

You’ll learn, for instance, that the objective of the ‘project' — classically presumed to be crystal-clear — barely satisfies a generous interpretation of fuzzy. The plan? Hovering beside the delusional edge of notional. Success criteria? Under continuous…

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