Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Magic and Project Management

OK, so this is an experiment to see how much overlap there are between two domains of interest. The first of these interests being magic and the second being Project Management. Note: under the category of magic I include sorcery, witchcraft, shamanism, theurgy, and any similar topics that you’re likely to find in an occult bookshop.

So, what exactly is Project Management? Let’s start with a definition from the Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org) book: the Project Management Body of Knowledge.

 PMBOK (3rd ed) Chapter 1 Introduction
1.2.1 Project Characteristics
A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.
Sounds familiar to those who do magical workings? Let’s compare that to a definition of magic by some well known occultists.

Crowley defined magick as "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.
Magick in Theory and Practice, Book 3 of 4 by Aleister Crowley
Here are some more definitions: http://www.llewellyn.com/encyclopedia/term/Magick

So whilst it can be argued that every act can be magical, in practice based on my discussions with various practitioners there are some activities that are done on a regular basis and then there are some workings that are one-offs. The latter meet the criteria for project characteristics and these are the ones that we’ll focus on in the next set of articles.

So what distinguishes doing specific acts of magic or worship from things that an initiate does every day, week, cycle or year? Well, let’s consult with the PMI Body of Knowledge:

PMBOK (3rd ed) 1.2.2 Projects vs. Operational Work
Organizations perform work to achieve a set of objectives. Generally, work can be categorized as either projects or operations although the two sometimes overlap. They share many of the following characteristics:
  • Performed by people
  • Constrained by limited resources
  • Planned, executed, and controlled
Projects and operations differ primarily in that operations are ongoing and repetitive, while projects are temporary and unique.
The objective of projects and operations are fundamentally different. The purpose of a project is to attain its objective and then terminate. Conversely, the objective of an ongoing operation is to sustain the business. Projects are different because the project concludes when its specific objectives have been attained, while operations adopt a new set of objectives and the work continues.
To sum it up, those activities that are done repetitively are considered “business as usual”. Those that are supposed to produce a unique result (service or product) are considered to be projects.

This brings up the obvious question of: why is it worth the hassle learning about Project Management to be successful in magic? Well, to answer that let’s look one more time at the Project Management Body of Knowledge:
PMBOK (3rd ed) 1.3 What is Project Management?
Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. Project management is accomplished through the application and integration of project management processes of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. The project manager is the person responsible for accomplishing the project objectives.
Managing a project includes:
  • Identifying requirements
  • Establishing clear and achievable objectives
  • Balancing the competing demands for quality, scope, time, and cost
  • Adapting the specifications, plans and approach to the different concerns and expectations of the various stakeholders.
Here we can see that structure is emerging from the idea that some result is desired to help ensure that it’s done in a manner that will increase the chances of success. Some workings are very brief and make not require any initiating, planning, monitoring or closing and simply focus on execution. However, some larger workings could certainly benefit from a more structure approach. Particularly if it involves working with multiple people.

Now on to the question of why I’m bothering with expounding on how Project Management can help with magical practices? The answer it two-fold: as already outlined at the start I have an interest in both and regularly read books on my commute on each topic. The second reason is that Arbamelin is not the longest working that I am aware off, studying and mastering Sefer Yetirah to be able to create a golem** takes three years (at a minimum). Hence it’s prudent to invest some effort in to managing such an endeavour with tried and tested project management techniques to increase the chances of success.

 ** - A golem is a mystical anthropoid, a man-made creature whose mention is found as early as (approx 4th century C.E.) in talmudic passages, for example where two Amoraim create a calf to be eaten at their Sabbath meal and Rava produces a manlike creature which R. Zera indignantly returns to the dust (Sanh. 65b).