Project Management

Project+Politics=Projectics

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

No matter how carefully one might order up a project, the politics still show up, too. The notion that any project might succeed by merely employing rational methods should seem irrational to all of us by now. We must work the system so the system can work.

This is the second in 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.

“The politics keep nailing us,” complains the ragged leader of a struggling project. “The plan is fine,” he continues, “the method completely reasonable, but the politicians, not the engineers, seem to be failing us.”

You’ve probably heard some variant of this grumble as often as I have heard it. Maybe you’ve heard yourself singing this same, sad tune. Damned politics seem to be the chief enemy of almost every project.

Find a committed customer, build a decent community around the product idea, demonstrate viability six ways to Sunday, recruit stellar contributors, and still limp away, fouled out by some unconscionably underhanded politicking; backstabbed. A clearly better mousetrap co-opted by some big, fat …


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"Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without."

- Buddha