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The Project Assassin - Call for Guidance

An unrecognised but successful profession

There is a general misapprehension that all those involved in projects wish them to succeed. A moment's thought or a brief consideration of human nature shows how improbable that is.

Projects change things but people don't like change. Why then should people like projects? Of course, there is a difference between casual dislike and being prepared to take action against something. But with the numbers of people involved in or affected by a project, is it likely that everyone will be fully behind what the project is trying to accomplish? Given the impact that a project may have on working practices, staffing levels, power, etc. isn't it probable that someone will be prepared to take action?

The high rate of project failure is not accidental. For IT projects it has remained fixed at about 75% for the last decade and now other sectors are beginning to admit (but not very loudly) that their failure rates are similar. This is surely evidence for intelligent intervention.

Doubtless Sherlock Holmes would have detected the hand of Moriarty at work, but this is surely too great an achievement for any one man and his fictional status is a serious drawback. I am more inclined to follow the logic of those who doubt that man ever landed on the moon and, more pertinently, suspect CIA involvement in the death of John F Kennedy. For me there is little doubt that Project Assassins are at work in many projects today.

An ancient, thriving but discreet profession

An early practitioner was the genius who used the 'auto-scheduling' function of his project management software to ensure that the roofs of ancient temples were built before the walls. (Figure 1)

I suspect it is not only those who have been involved in software development who will have come across the 'swing', where the original requirement is changed successively by those involved in the analysis, design, coding, testing, implementation, etc., into something beautifully useless. It is only recently that the distinguished history of this particular technique for killing projects has been recognised. (Figure 2)

Although it is an ancient profession, it is nevertheless a thriving profession. Despite the best efforts of some to claim success for projects that deliver little or no value to anybody (Figure 3 - removed pending legal action), the handiwork of the Project Assassin can be seen all around us.

But the profession of the Project Assassin must be discreet. As such many are unaware of its existence and such denial brings considerable advantages. Project Assassins have much in common with the security services. Once identities are known, effectiveness is compromised and survival may be put at risk.

In need of guidance

It is also a maturing profession and as such a difficult balance must be maintained between recognition and ... well ... recognition.

The first step in achieving such recognition for the profession, rather than the individual, is the production of a recognized Body of Knowledge to embody (or perhaps 'embalm') 'best practice'; hence the need for a 'Project Assassin's Guide' or PABoK as it will doubtless become known.