02 August, 2005

Project Death Spiral: raw nerves

A fairly serious issue has come up. One of those things that's so glaringly obvious in hindsight that it seems impossible no-one identified it at the time. Particularly the people making the decisions back then, like PMv1 and Project Team Leader v1.

While waiting for a meeting to begin yesterday morning, my minion pounced on PTLv1, who was sitting in for someone else, and asks him whether anyone had identified this issue back when the decision was first made.

"Err... no."

She explains.

"Um, no. That's easily fixed, though. There'll be a workaround. Why is it a problem again?" (Inoffensive guy, but not real bright).

Another manager in attendance asked for a couple of details, and suggested some solutions that could be discussed at another meeting later in the week.

And that, as far as we knew, was that. Until this morning when my minion arrived back in the shed after getting some clean drinking water from inside the main building.

"Did you think I was making a personal attack on PTLv1 yesterday?"

"Hell, no. He was still able to walk unassisted. Why?"

Apparently PTLv1 baled up my minion in passing and asked whether she was trying to make a personal attack on him yesterday (which is something only someone who'd never seen her make a personal attack could ask).

My minion brushes it aside. "No, of course not. I'm just trying to work out why no-one saw this coming before now and thought you might know something from back then."

"Well it felt like you were blaming me. I've heard that people are trying to blame me for the project running so far behind schedule when I was running it." (Well, who'd have thought? Chalk it up to one of life's cruel coincidences, I guess).

"Seriously, I haven't given it a second thought."

"Well I was worrying about it all day. Because it wasn't my fault, you know." Suddenly he sees light at the end of the tunnel. "But you were there, too. You were part of all those decisions!"

At this point he comes dangerously close to incurring a real personal attack, but my minion restrains herself and points out that she wasn't the project team leader, and was only told about things (sometimes) after they happened. PTLv1 is starting to sweat a little by this point ("Oh god, she really is trying to put the blame on me!") so she takes pity on him and explains that all she's really interested in doing is trying to get the issue fixed as soon as possible.

"Oh, that's good. Because it really sounded like you were trying to make a personal attack, and I've heard stuff. People are saying things. And it wasn't my fault. Really. Umm..." Some primitive survival instinct sees him retreat back to his office before he digs himself any deeper.

No guilty consciences there, no. Not in the slightest.

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