Rodney M Bliss

#3 Lessons From Camp: There Is No Project Management Merit Badge…But There Should Be

The boys are going to go walk the Honor Trail. You adults are welcome to do whatever you want for the next 30 minutes or so.

There is being off by a little and then there’s being off like these guys were about to be.

Project Managers do one thing: We manage projects. I took a class when I prepared for my Project Manager Professional (PMP) exam. In the course, we had people from all industries. I was from software, someone else was from construction. Another guy was from manufacturing. Project Management is a skill that largely transends industries. 

For example, when I get a new project handed me, I wanted to know the answer to several questions:

  1. What is the budget?
  2. What is the schedule?
  3. What are the features?
  4. Who are my stakeholders?

I could be buiding a call center, or designing a piece of software. The questions don’t change. 

I went to Scout camp last week. The scout camp was put on by the local troops. We are all sponsored by LDS congregations, and the local leaders put together the camp. Like most non-project managers they WAY underestimated how much work it would be. 

To the credit of the people putting it on, they did a pretty good job. It started on time. It ended on time. We did MOST of the stuff they wanted to plan. But, occasionally, their lack of PM skills really showed up. The night of the Honor Walk was the worst. 

An Honor Walk is a solemn experience. The boys go in small groups and travel from point to point. At each point someone is standing there to explain an aspect of the Scout Law. If you’ve never heard the Scout Law, it’s:

A Scout is

Clean and

Scouts are expected to try to live their life by this law. Overall, I think you could go a long ways before finding a better code of conduct. On the Honor Walk, someone is there at each station to take 4-5 minutes and explain each point of the Scout Law. Then the group of boys moves to the next station. 

Thirty minutes?

I did the math in my head before we walked out of the ampitheater. 

Let’s see, twelve stations, five minutes each, that’s an hour right there. Figure probably two or three minutes to walk between stations, that’s another thirty minutes. It’s probably going to get stacked up at certain stations, so figure another fifteen to twenty minutes. My estimate? 2-2.5 hours. 

The other issue was that the Scoutmaster and I now had some time to kill. We both have boys in the troop. 

Well, now what do we do? I assumed that they would have some sort of training that they would go through with us while the boys were out. 

Yeah, I’d really kind of like to go through the walk with my son. Did you see which direction our troop went?

The Scoutmaster managed to track down our troop. I got snared by one of the camp leaders. 

Rodney, could you go around the stations and ask them to keep it down to 3 minutes? We are running way behind. 

Part of the problem was that the Honor Trail led up the side of a mountain. 

It was getting dark. The trail off the mountain wasn’t well marked. I became a roadsign; hangin up a red light to guide boys and leaders to the trail. 

Project Managers can sometimes be hard to justify hiring. Afterall, they don’t really DO anything. We talk, we schedule, we hold meetings. But, we don’t build anything. We don’t create anything. Why pay a project manager who can’t code when what you really want to do is build a website? 

My first agent was a wonderful woman named Barbara Bova, may she rest in peace. I went to her with a signed contract and offered her 10% of the already signed deal to be my agent. She was able to renegotiate the contract and get me a 20% bonus. She more than earned back her commission. 

PMs are the same way. They (we) are trained to help you keep a project on track and on budget. That’s an important objective when you are in the development phase. On many projects a delay of even a few weeks can cost more than the PM’s salary. 

It was frustrating to watch the camp, which the boys and I really enjoyed, suffer from such easily fixed issues. I knew as soon as they announced the Honor Trail that they were not going to meet their timelines. With just a little bit of professional help, they could have greatly increased the boys’ experience. 

But, they don’t give merit badges for Project Management. Maybe they should. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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