Where is the beef?

Misfits of project management

Issue nr. 4

Where is the beef?



Where is the beef?

  • Meow
  • Collateral damage

  • Aliens have landed

  • MIA – Project Management


This is an ironic newsletter – we like having fun.

For those who did not read previous issues: www.righetconsult.com/newsletter

It is a case that today’s topic is centered on a certain kind of project management conferences: we read the program of yet another of those “encounters of the third type” conferences … and we began writing, for we only write when we are struck by bizarre happenings.

By a strange turn of fate, the conference “Project Management 2009” is going to take place in September, so it is dealt with in the news section of this very newsletter: in this case, we have a genuine first rate conference, the true product – Tailchaser and Inklet have tasted it 🙂

Where is the beef?

At project management conferences, why are they usually speaking about “collateral” matters, but not of the true Project Management?

They speak about communication, cultural aspects, “cotillons”, but what about genuine Project Management?

Maybe one speaks of verbal communication, but if you are interested in how a project is to be set out, you can probably watch the paint dry and learn more.

Maybe one speaks about cultural sharing, but never about a Communication Plan or a Project Approach.

Whoever tells you how to set out a project? To what avail “learning” how to “communicate” a project without having a project?

Cultural sharing of what?

If you tried to communicate something ethereal (a bit like those people do), what advantage would you get from “cultural sharing”?

First rule: before facing the customer, you should have a product; in this case, before communicating the customer the contents of your project, you should have a project … a real, solid, touchable productnot a smoky bundle of chats.

Oh, we know too well that someone is very good at selling smoke … and smoke is what the customer will get. It seems to be ok, provided you are not that customer, doesn’t it?

Have you ever heard of Project Mandate or Project Approach? Maybe yes, but if you think of it … where have you heard it? We bet you have not heard it at project management conferences “of the third type”.

What are those conferences for, then?

Where is the beef?


No, this time Tailchaser is not guilty, nor is our other feline friend Inklet 🙂

You know, they really like beef, but … we fear the beef wasn’t there to begin with.

Otherwise, we would have gladly shared it with them, because our cats are very knowledgeable: they stay still and observe, then sometimes meow abruptly in a reproachable tone; that is when we know we are doing something silly or, to put it differently, the beef is not first quality.

Should cats take things into their hands – ops, paws – and speak (sorry, meow) at project management conferences, maybe?

It happens.

It happens even at big and renowned conferences.

Tailchaser: “Meowww:-/!Translation by Inklet: “Oh my God!

That’s so, folks: sometimes people having nothing to do with project management lecture at project management events.

Artists, musicians, photographers, whatever you may think of, provided they have little or nothing at all to do with project management. Sometimes they speak of (very) “collateral” matters, sometimes they speak of matters strictly “alien” to project management.

Collateral damage

Everyone of us has got used to these words: collateral damage.

Fortunately, this is an ironic newsletter and we are not speaking of true collateral damage; that, we hope we will never witness in our lives.

Unfortunately, we are obliged to suffer another kind of collateral damage.

Obliged, as we usually go to a project management conference and … we get entangled in an ambush: bursts of verbal communication, cultural aspects’ grenades, cultural sharing sniping, even soft (skills) bayonets.

You know, that was set for someone else, i.e., inexperienced poor guys on reconnaissance patrol in the project management field; they wanted to approach the discipline, they thought they were careful enough to avoid the “claim more” mines, but … “This is a dirty war, Johnny😉

At any rate, even you most careful in staying out of skirmishes, get involved; after all, the conference room is never big enough and “accepting and inventing requirements” bullets travel a long distance: collateral damage.

Basically, people attend project management conferences to learn the hows.

What they often get instead is a bundle of generic “information” of no practical use or even worse, for, if to you that is not useful (and sometimes even boring) information, to the inexperienced that is sold as “project management”; the inexperienced are searching for the right trail and follow indications, especially when they are given to them as absolute truths.

That could be damaging even to you, for you may get subtly convinced you need to take the wrong turn of the road: collateral damage.

Verbal communication is a very useful skill; in fact, we include it in our “extended” project management basic course, i.e., we give some basics the third day (in the three-day course) or some sound information on how to explain your project (or your ideas) in public the fourth day (in the four-day course). That is, we speak of it in detail not before two days of intensive project management course – basic soft skills are included in those first two days: the two-day course is the basic course.

In a few words, people should first learn project management basics and begin understanding how to draw a project, then, and only then, learn how to “communicate” it.

Btw, of which use is knowing Chinese if you don’t know project management? You may impress your customers or partners with your Chinese, but you will never get a contract.

Cultural aspects are a wondrous thing: no one seems to know what they may exactly be.

Oh, the sound of it is good, but Ulysses teaches a good lesson on sirens.

A project should produce measurable results/products and should be the fruit of measurable and tangible actions: a house is tangible and built through bricks, rulers, and so on; we have never heard of “cultural aspects” in masonry, just of good or not-so-good masons, whatever their ancestry.

Cultural sharing is our favourite: what the hell does “cultural sharing” mean?

Has its meaning got lost in the mist of legend? Is it unknowledgeable, intangible, and basically the cultural-sharing-that-be?

You know, we usually keep the project team up-to-date on everything that could be relevant for the project; on their part, team-members do the same. Basically, we work together in harmony; obviously, a communication plan has to be set out at an early stage, agreements on how to deal with issues and the like ought to be struck, and so on.

Stop there!

Why aren’t those same people who speak of “cultural sharing” hinting at the just-mentioned aspects? We could accept “cultural sharing” if those aspects had been already dealt with by the speaker before.

Withcultural sharing” alone, whatever it may be in practical terms, you are not going to bring a project to a happy end.

In case “cultural sharing” is meant as “we are all of the same mind” or a brotherhood” … sorry, we must respect each other and be tolerant and respectful of other people’s ideas, but trying to reach “brotherhood” is basically impossible and even potentially damaging: project discipline tends to get lost; everyone assumes he/she has the right to discuss matters long after a course has been set; problems tend to be invariably seen as “cultural” problems; a damaging uniformity of thought takes place; people get convinced that not acting according to current fads means being “asocial” or, even worse, not team-players 😉 and so on.

Soft skills: they are definitely needed in a project, provided everything is not reduced to chatters.

Unfortunately, soft skills are often an easy choice: one can speak of everything and nothing. Often, that is exactly the case: you learn nothing about practical project management, just a lot of ethereal information which could be likewise applied to discussions on angels’ sex.

Aliens have landed

Who happens to be lecturing at project management conferences?

Artists, musicians, photographers, performers, evenjugglers”.

Aliens have landed on the surface of project management.

To be fair, they were invited and they came: the fifth column of project management has struck again 😉

At any rate, we are thankful when they do not try to speak of what (according to someone) is project management.

People reading compositions, people showing photographs (the same over and over again during their allotted time), and so on.

At least, “jugglers” are frank and state they are there for a show of their art, not for project management.

Meeoww??That was Tailchaser; as usual, our faithful Inklet provides the translation (cats have few words but an infinity of tones – they are very practical): “So, what may those “aliens” want of us?

At those conferences, someone is quite honest and states that project managers should help (economically) artists, someone else remains a mystery.

Well, now the valiant Inklet comes to our aid – she-cats are very perceptive: “Mayhap are they just substitutes for sound project management matters?

Where were sound management matters left, then?

Tailchaser may not be as perceptive as Inklet, but he knows his business: when he projects a plan to catch mice, he is a perfect project manager: “Meeeow mew! :-\”

This time, I could understand him without any help from Inklet: “When dealing with an audience, emotions can be a substitute for rational facts: in the end, the audience may be happy, even if very little useful information has been given.

Inklet: “When you don’t have the beef, give them the scent of beef, make the scent very strong and override their rationality. Play with scent long enough, and they will be satisfied … or at least they will be convinced of being satisfied; their primitive emotional mind will remember the experience as a positive one, even if they have learned nothing, or almost nothing, positive.”

Tailchaser brings the discussion to an end: “Even soft kills (he is trying to speak English now), sharing and the rest of the paraphernalia …

MIA – Project Management

MIA – Missing In Action.

At the end of the long day, you realize someone is missing: ambush after ambush, poor sergeant-major Project Management is no longer in sight.

Is he dead? What killed him? An unfortunate burst of verbal communication? A cultural aspects offensive grenade? A cultural sharing sniper? A soft kills (as Tailchaser would say) bayonet? Or even a “claim more” mine placed by an artist in unconventional warfare?

Or did they, and others, all contribute to Project Management’s untimely passing away?

Is he a prisoner? Who knows?

Even Project Management’s platoon is missing: someone is definitely dead, someone is seriously wounded, someone is MIA.

Private first class Project Mandate is dead, private Business Case is wounded, corporal Project Brief was killed during an attack with cultural aspects grenades, sergeant Project Approach was mowed down by a hail of “accepting and inventing requirements” bullets, private Organization was last seen while a band of ethically-conscious guerrillas armed with big machetes was closing on him from all quarters, corporal Responsibilities has been incinerated by a “claim more” mine, private Customer’s Quality Expectations has been taken prisoner and deported to a concentration camp, Sergeant Project Plan has been tortured to death, private first class Risks has been grievously wounded by a cultural sharing sniper – we pray for him, corporal Product-based Planning has been captured and shot on the spot, private Product Description is behind hope of recovery, many others are MIA and possibly KIA – Killed In Action.


This time, Inklet and Tailchaser in unison: “Ok, but now let’s go for the real, genuine, tasteful beef; we are really hungry!!”

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