If you’ve ever seen the film “A Shock to the System”, you’ll know that a successful Project Manager is also a sorcerer who walks softly and casts a long shadow. Find that hard to believe? Well, perhaps if I re-phrase some of the arcane language of Project Management in to everyday descriptions of magical practices – you might start to see the lightning path of Project Management in a new light…
When a project is first dreamt up in the dark reaches of the underworld, an outline of the ritual is first captured in the Project Charter. This channelled piece of writing often contains fantastical leaps of imagination and glimpses of a future riven by beings of nightmare who form inter-dimensional breaches in to our reality.
The Powers-that-Be are often most active at this stage of the preparation to begin the magical working, known in closed circles as the Project. The Charter texts commonly promises great rewards such as wealth, the ability to fly, conjuring armies out of mist, and gaining access to the vast anthropomorphic Body of Knowledge of Project Management that is more commonly called the Akashic Record.
The Charter is the starting point of a larger working that can take months, if not years, to complete. Often the magical practitioner, also known as the Project Manager, burns out long before the magical working is complete. It is usual practice for wizards for hire, contractors, to be brought in to fill the gaps and keep the rituals going.
Some doomed workings acquire the nick-name death-march projects and this is a sure sign that the magical energies in the working have become unbalanced. The only thing to do is regular cleansing by moving from one project to the next, until the death-march is but a dim memory. Often practitioners will lure another more junior Project Manager on to the working with promises of incredible power and influence with the Powers-that-Be. But it’s all just meat to the slaughter as the entities involved in the working get ever more desperate for fresh blood to sate their jaded hearts. The haunted looks of defeat that Project cultists carry around is a sign to run away as fast as you can.
The fortunate few Projects that make it past the initial stages of Chartering and Funding progress on to planning and design. In this part of the magical working the practitioner creates vast tables of correspondences, researches any and all astrological charts that contain even a faint glimmer of hope. The final stage is sometimes called Sizing and may even involve such arcane terms as PERT and weighted averages. But please don’t be fooled that there is any science behind such practices. It’s simple another way of doing one Tarot reading after the other until you find a spread that is one you like and then using that particular one instead of all the displeasing readings from before filled with despair and insanity which the Project Manager has discarded with an ever increasingly manic cackle.
Now comes the part where the magic really begins to come together. The Scope of the ritual has been outlined, divinations have been made to create a Schedule, and favoured spirits, angels, and the dead have been pulled together from the Grimoire of Named Resources. Four gates are opened in turn to allow the magical energies to start acting upon the world.
The gate of Initiation is one in which the practitioner ignites the enthusiasm and favour of the Power-that-Be with the element of fire. Next the gate of Planning is opened with a lengthy reading of spirit names and barbarous sounds. This is a delicate stage in which the Plan is held up for scrutiny and the Project Manager often has to use every trick and mojo bag to escape being found out as a fraud and a trickster. The favoured element is Air for this Gate. Much hot air is expended in trying to get through this Gate and it’s only by frequent offerings to the Power-that-Be before reaching this Gate that the Project magical practitioner has any chance of passing this Gate unscathed.
The Delivery gate takes the longest to open. Between the last gate and this one, the Project Manager threatens, begs, provides numerous offerings up to an including sacrifice of sentient life, in order to guarantee some degree of success in the magical working. Common fall-outs from a project ritual in which proper grounding in common sense is not applied result in late night and weekend workings, broken marriages, binging on alcohol and drugs, depression, retreats in to MMORPGs for months or even years. The element that dominates this Gate is water. Bitter tears wept by the Project cultists as they watch helplessly whilst the Project sucks the life out of them are carefully collected and worn in an amulet of protection by the Project Manager. If the reservoir in this amulet starts to run low, an easy way to re-fill it is to utter the eldritch curse “yeah… I’m going to have to ask you to work on Saturday… and uh, Sunday”.
Worst of all it can result in the spawning of new Project Managers as the old ones lose their Will and fade away. The more junior members of the Project Cult may then be unceremoniously promoted without warning or training in what has in effect become a death march Project.
Finally, after numerous attempts to gain the favour and attention of the Senior Stakeholders (the Powers-that-Be) who have long since lost interest in anything to do with this Project ritual and are busy transitioning to a new organization to run in to the ground. Finally... the last Gate is approached with awe, trepidation, and a desperate hunger that results in sanity and dignity being entirely abandoned in equal measure. This is the Gate of Earth, where project rituals and practitioners go to die. Some pass through this Gate of the Underworld in to a new life as a Business Analyst. Others are hardened by the fires of the Abyss and reformed in to such hellish creations as Programme Managers and Programme Directors.
The rest spend an eternity in the Purgatory of the Project Management Office, endlessly dreaming up new processes, good practices, and occasionally being allowed back in to the mortal realm to conduct a Project Audit. Some few pure souls even manage to pass on a few diamonds of wisdom through a process known as Mentoring. But many believe that these Mentoring lineages are nothing but myths and legends, they refuse to believe that Project Management has an ancient lineage preserved by a few initiates who built the pyramids and mined the moon of all it’s cheese lakes until only a barren pock-marked ball remained.
Having completed the Great Work of the Project, the magical practitioner know as the Project manager often allow themselves a small degree of self-satisfaction at having lived through it all. That brief moment of calm often lasts no more than a few minutes after which they are commonly interrupted by a Certified Chaos Magician with the question “Why didn’t you run it as an Agile project?”