Part 5 of 5 – Checkmate – part 1

Strategic Bunker

My strategic bunker

If a ruler pays attention to false information, all his officials will be liars.
Proverbs 29:12 – Scripture.

It takes considerable effort to verify and validate the existence of project deceit. Painfully though, it carries on being ignored because of  that very same word, “pain”. The costs of not confronting or trying to avoid this pain, is cataclysmic. Lives connected to projects running on deceit have been destroyed. The project itself runs into millions of pounds in wastage. Yes, I scare “professionals” intent on continuing to fuel deceit on a project because I am qualified to do it. If I do nothing, then I am no better that those in senior positions turning a blind eye to it. From the bottom upwards we all know that it goes on, yet many in senior management just do not want to see it the board are always the last to know when things go wrong.

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Across the next 72hrs following on from the project suspension, I was on fire. I was too excited to sleep. This was a pivotal moment, the opportunity that was needed to take control of this failing project had finally arrived. I was completely in my stride when all around me was crumbling under this cleverly induced chaos and subsequent stress. I knew the plan, and so did my three trusted genius level colleagues (without whom I would never be able to pull this off).

A few nights ago, prior to the suspension meeting, we had gone out for a few “Pivas” (beers). I wanted to let them in on what was expected to happen – namely the suspension (although at the time, I identified it as the intent to “oust us out of the project”). I explained, from previous experience, what would occur, and persuaded them not to react in panic. Their job was to maintain focus on development of the priority ‘deliverables’ for the project. It was my job to dealwith our imminent ousting. “All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”  Sun Tzu

Of course they questioned me in great depth, how could I possibly know all that I was telling them would happen? In reality, my postulations were based upon the living project documents, the varying differences in stakeholder bodily communication, the tones within the meetings, my visit to the client’s high tech facility and the fact that I was now in possession of proof that we were being lied to. The whole project was being lied to“At the critical moment, the leader of an army acts like one who has climbed up a height and then kicks away the ladder behind him. He carries his men deep into hostile territory before he shows his hand.” Sun Tzu

The figures had not quite added up after the exhaustive audit my team and I had undertaken. Several documents for project equipment (AIX machines, RAID arrays, etc) were telling me that the project was being heavily cheated on. These were vastly expensive pieces of equipment ($23,000 and upwards for just one array – CLARiiON, ServeRAID or OmniRAID). As such for example, they should have come with installation and maintenance agreements – but where were these agreements?

The production environment was claimed to be fully delivered. There were even people inside the client’s high-tech facility (under nuclear plant level security) standing around these large machine arrays. I did not see any of the equipment actually running – but the people standing around them made it look as if the equipment was functioning normally. The question was, why had they not been able to assign the laptop they had given me to their own network?

Then there were the Meteo content providers supplying the portal with weather data. They had been sending data since the agreement had been signed – right at the start of the project. The data stream was pointing to the staging environment as planned, but nothing was recorded on the master project plan. In fact, no contracted content providers were assigned to tasks in any plan – apart from mine. Why did I not have copy of the overall plan despite my requests?

Just two weeks into the project, a distraught woman came to the lobby of my hotel to meet me. She was from the client side. She claimed that she had attended a meeting where she informed the client senior management that users publishing content would require training on whatever content management system they would procure. The result of that meeting was that only one person on the client side would attend training, and that person would train the rest! How much time was that going to waste? Why could only one person be trained?

The client side IT Director was also on my mind. He had always been amicable towards me. His sudden turn of character was disturbing. Why? What had he been told that would cause his change of behaviour? When I had inspected their hi-tech facility why had he insisted at the end of the visit that our tech team remain behind? One of my tech savvy team members was too upset to return to the facility on his own. Why? What was happening there to cause this fear?

The Sheraton Zagreb had become my home for almost a month now. I had discovered a little corner in the downstairs lounge where I could see everything, and few people could see me. I sat there thinking as my mobile buzzed in and out of life. London and India were both calling. I ignored the calls. My mind had to remain focussed on figuring out my next set of moves and the impact each would have. I ordered another pot of tea and asked for some pen and paper to do some working out. There were so many options to restart the project, but I needed to start thinking from the end of the project as opposed to thinking from the project suspension.

What outcome did I want? Who would benefit from the outcome? How much trouble was I really in with London and the gossips back there? I had gotten to this point – the project suspension point – because I had told the truth. I held nothing back, because the project demanded that everything be open. If I had lied, then the distraught woman would never have come to tell me what she told me – and thereby providing a much wider opening to the opportunity for taking control of the project. I would never have gotten the huge amount of project information, delivering the project required, if I had curried the truth – even just a little.

From my very first steps on Croatian soil I had set the vision and strategic pace of the project. The feedback was a relief, as Lisa and I had correctly deduced the state of the project from as far away as London – and several weeks prior to landing there. The client side technicians and many lower level stakeholders trusted me. The local advertising agency used by the Client trusted me. Their support, given that the design division of my company was a competitor, was invaluable. I was not going to disappoint any of them now by being obscured from the real goals of the project by the project suspension smoke screen.

Around midnight I was still in the same part of the Sheraton lounge, and with a roughly scribbled mind map. I had worked out the project’s endgame, and traced several opportunistic routes back to the current project suspension status. Now I had to get up to my suite and back into its strategic bunker. In the strategic bunker, my mind map raised even more questions. For example, the equipment in the facility finally did look like it had just been dumped there. Some of the equipment was still in it transport polystyrene and plastic sheathing – Why? When I had asked about visiting the facility, there was heavy resistance, why?

That morning the answer to everything was clear. I was out of bed at 05:00. I could only manage 4 hours sleep. I had to live the plan every waking moment if everything was going to work. I did a few laps around the hotel which helped me power down the continuous rush of adrenaline, showered and was at breakfast by 07:30.
At 08:00, I was back up in the strategic bunker.

09:00, I picked up the phone to directly interrogate the project  saboteurs, ultimately responsible for the project suspension, and before that, sabotage of the projects’ early beginnings!

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