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Don’t Make Project Management a Game of Thrones

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I’ve been watching the latest season of Game of Thrones, and it struck me that project management can seem pretty medieval at times. You have these distinct little groups, each led by a figurehead trying to carve out his own little empire and promote himself or his team above others. Resources and men are taken from one and given to others, sparking jealousy and rivalry. It’s easy to substitute swords instead of pens, and castles in place of cubicles. But as I thought more about it, I realized that Game of Thrones is everything project management should not.Don't Make Project Management a Game of Thrones

Here’s why:

Cronyism Hurts Everybody

You’re building a project management team, not an army—and even then, playing favorites is a really bad idea. Giving out special treatment doesn’t breed the right kind of loyalty. In fact, there are many ways it can come back and bite you in the ass.

Merit-based promotion is definitely the way to go. It’s fair, encourages the right kind of behavior, and unlike cronyism, it really does benefit everyone. And remember that their good performance will reflect on you.

Politics are Counter-productive

There’s a reason Game of Thrones is one of the bloodiest shows on TV: politics. The greedy ambition, plotting, and backstabbing (sometimes literally) have resulted in a dysfunctional, unstable land vulnerable to conquest and inner strife.

Project management politics aren’t lethal to people, but they definitely are to teams and businesses. Instead of large-scale success, they start to think about personal gain and petty rivalries. Distractions abound and obstacles are shoved in people’s way out of personal ambition, competition, or even spite. Not even the best project managers are exempt from the political game, but they do know how to succeed despite it.

Think Beyond Yourself

Don’t think of your own success. Don’t even think of the company’s. Think of your client’s success, and what you can do to help achieve it. You’re not handing over a project; you’re leaving a legacy. Look beyond the “end date” and think about how your project will affect the customer a year or so down the line. Will your project have helped, or harmed?

You may not be a ruling noble of Westeros, but you’ll still have a more positive impact on your client’s life than the warring lords and ladies have had on their subjects’.

There’s nothing wrong with ambition, or with a little friendly competition. But the moment people start to lose sight of the larger view is when professionalism takes a back seat to politics. And in that game, everybody loses.

Image Credit: Flickr, Soren Niedziella

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