Student Materials

The True Saga of a Project Manager – a Cautionary Tale

An individual, hereinafter called the Project Manager, had a vision of a particular project which he believed would be very profitable, if only somebody would finance it.  He put together a package and set out to find a sponsor.  Among the ingredients of the package were an exotic project name, an impressive title for himself, and a presumptious commission.
The venture proposed by the Project Manager was not original.  Others had toyed with the idea, and various estimates of the cost and scope of the project had been put forth.  The Project Manager picked and chose from among the various estimates such that he arrived at the lowest aggregate cost estimate, which eventually proved to be about twenty-five percent of the actual magnitude.
Each potential sponsor turned the proposal over to a committee for study.  The committees included educated personnel knowledgeable of the proposed venture and of various estimates made in the past of its magnitude and prospects.  The Project Manager appeared before these committees with refined arguments and manipulated evidence to support his case.  However, no committee ever supported his plan.

The Project Manager eventually found a sponsor, not by convincing knowledgeable people of the viability of his project, but because his extreme self-assuredness eventually overcame the opposition.

The project ultimately got under way.  As it progressed, the Project Manager found it necessary to conceal its rate of progress from his team members in order to receive their continued support.

In due course, the Project Manager exhausted his resources and failed to achieve his objective, whereupon he returned to his sponsor and declared success.  In order to carry on, he asked for and received roughly five times his original advance.  This tactic was employed successfully twice more, by which time all participants except the Project Manager were convinced that the project had failed.  In fact, the Project Manager never acknowledged failure, although given his apparent intelligence he most likely knew.
The Project Manager received his payment as if he had been successful, though the commissions were not significant.
The name chosen for the project: 'Enterprise of the Indies.'  Its goal: To reach the Indies by sailing west from Portugal.  Christopher Columbus chose for himself the titles Admiral of the Ocean Sea, Viceroy and Governor of whatever lands he should discover.  His estimate of 2,400 miles from Portugal to Japan was short by 8,200 miles.  His commission of 10% would have been enormous had he lived to see the conquest of Mexico.

Columbus was faced with a particular dilemma in seeking assistance for his project.  He had to both sell it and perform it.  Unfortunately, these functions are sometimes incompatible.