Shallow Success, or The Story of The Kidnapped Trophy

Did you know that there was once a project manager that successfully delivered a project on time, on budget, and according to specification? Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard the story – it turned out quite embarrasing in the end, so it might have been covered up a little bit. Here’s what happened.

After hearing about the project manager’s uncommon feat, the project management community was so astounded that it was decided that an official recognition was in order. The yearly gathering of project managers seemed like a suitable venue, and so plans were made and a suitable trophy was commissioned.

On the night of the ceremony the successful project manager walked on stage in front of the gathered community in order to receive an award from the hands of the king and queen of project management. Unfortunately, just when the project manager was about to grab the delicately ornamented and lavishly gilded “Iron Triangle Trophy”, a small girl jumped up on stage.

– “Stop!”, the girl shouted to the king and queen, with the side effect of also silencing the entire audience very effectively. With a grim look on her little face the intruder turned towards the audience.

– “Yes”, the girl said. “It is true that this project manager delivered a project on time, on budget, and according to the contracted specifications. However, my daddy uses the system when he works and he says it’s terrible. I know, because he comes home angry every night and says bad things about it. In fact, he said that it was a total pile of …”.

Her last words couldn’t be heard, because the king and queen had unplugged the little girl’s microphone. They congratulated each other by nodding their heads ever so slightly and staring deeply into each other’s eyes. That’s why they weren’t prepared to stop the little girl as she ran up to the king and snatched the trophy from his hand and proceeded to run off behind the curtains, never to be seen again.

They say the project manager never understood what happened, and went on to manage many similar successes during a long and fruitful career.

This might end up as the introduction to the chapter called “Shallow Success” in my upcoming book “Pitfalls of Scrum”. If you might be interested in it, sign up here:

Published by Tobias Fors

I'm a software management consultant. I help other people succeed with software development. In my work, I help teams and organizations be more effective and ship software.