Monday, March 1, 2010

Project Management - A Comedy of Errors

Project Management - A Comedy of Errors. By Prasanna Kumar.

This 125 page is quite a “quote” and “mini story” intensive one. The story line may appear weak for a book, but it is worthwhile effort to go thru it for it contains many insightful view points. If you are in IT field, you can relate it even better. This book is of “In the wonderland of Indian managers” genre. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Story outline in brief without ending:
Swaminathan (Sam) joins a Y2K Indian Software company, works very hard for about 5 years and gets an onsite assignment to USA. He meets his mysterious manager Bob who starts teaching all the way from Indian airport. He teaches him the seven habits of highly ineffective manager, types of bosses, courtship and belly dancing, baby sitting techniques (aka) people management, delivery pains, tricks after which he eventually attains “nirvana”. It is a full round trip: Trip to USA, bit of drama there and finally back here. The book is fully in dialogue mode which makes it even more an enjoyable read. The way author relates a story to IT scenario is really ingenious.

I will pick two stories and three quotes from this book – more than that, I would risk reproducing the entire book!
Chapter-9: Delivery Pains. Pharaoh, Priest and the Mason.
In ancient times, Egyptian priests loaded the Pharaoh’s mind an idea of building skyway to heaven (it is a promise) but what got delivered was a Pyramid which is nothing more than a tomb. Priest and Mason know that, once it is complete, they will not live another day. So, priest asks mason to build something that can never be completed, but they cannot fake the progress. Hence, when it reaches certain stage, additional changes in the form after life requirements keeps coming. Pharaoh will have no option but to fund further. Priest strengthens his portfolio and mason gets a life time employment. Now author concludes rather dramatically, “Any project that makes the team members job position irrelevant, in true spirit never gets completed”.

Now, some interesting excerpts or quotes from that book.
1. For every under estimation, there is an equal and opposite over estimation
2. Bugs once created cannot be destroyed. They can only be transferred from one module to another. (Deliver now and worry later)
3. Be content with what you have, but, be sure you have got plenty.

Kalahari Bushman Story: If unable to find water on their own, they apply salt on monkey’s tongue. The thirsty monkey runs to the water source. The bushman simply follow the monkey and the water.

I really liked the book since it explains serious stuff in a lighter vein.
Thanks for reading thus far.


பகலவன் கிருஷ்ணமூர்த்தி said...


Looks like an interesting book to read for the sidebar items (such as Kalahari Bushman :-). Quotes such as "for every under estimation.." are really funny. Would love to see more such snippets.

Thanks for sharing,

Hitesh Thakker said...

Hi Madhu,
Referring to the Pharaoh story, Iam reminded of a RK Laxman's common man cartoon which depicted a very long wall being constructed by Govt for no real purpose except to prevent the workers from being unemployed.
Hitesh Thakker

Madhu Parthasarathy said...

Hi Pagz:
Rubbing salt, he says is same as passing blame and timing the retribution on people.
Such an insertion of guilt feeling will make people to work hard at no extra cost - just like that k-monkey:-)
Hi Hitesh:
Send the RKL's work if u have

Bluebirds said...

Thanks for sharing this book with me. It is a good satire on some realities of IT industry but in no way cynical. If one can filter the essence (squeeze the essentials out), there are some great insights. You have picked some of the most amusing anecdotes. Keep posting...

Mukund S said...

Here is more data on the author itself:
Trust TheHindu to have covered a formal review of the book:
In essence, the book's goal seems to be more attune to the cultural background of the author than a symptom that is culture agnostic. By the way, if not Amazon, there're other online sources to procure the book:

Kiran said...

Hello Madhu San,

It's an interesting read and I am eager to read the book.

Liked this one most -
"Bugs once created cannot be destroyed. They can only be transferred from one module to another. (Deliver now and worry later)"

Warm Regards

Mohanakrishnan said...


Thanks for the book. As you told me, it was an easy read. The book was a good time-pass reading, but I found it difficult to smile at his attempt at jokes. I must admit that my sense of humor is rather limited. :-)

Madhu Parthasarathy said...

Hi Mohan:
Appreciate your comments!
SOH (Sense-of-Humor) is multi dimensional one. I have seen people who get excited with "word play" based jokes, some just for PJs, some event based and so on (the list is not exhaustive)

Having known you well,I may not agree with you on your modesty about your limited SOH, but then, it may be simply that particular class did not appeal to you - fair enough.

My grandpa used to say," Imagination has been given to man to make up for what he is NOT.
Sense-of-humor has been provided to him to reconcile for what he is". I surmise, in this case your reconciliatory efforts failed :-)


Thomas said...

A project is a temporary endeavor, having a defined beginning and end (usually constrained by date, but can be by funding or deliverables), undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, usually to bring about beneficial change or added value.

Project Management Software

robert said...

The other point is that having same language speaking people working for you may provide you the luxury of using your native language in business discussions. Mostly the business and personal cultures will not have much difference with both the company professionals who work together for the projects and that will result much quicker relationship building among project teams.

Thomas said...

Too much software can become an impediment. The point of Agile is to collaborate, not use different tools. Software tools can (and do) enforce a style of work that may not be very collaborative.

Digressing Mind said...

Nice review. And its also a nice light one time read which I finally managed to read after it lay on my shelves for long and it was worth its money.

You can check out my thoughts on