Project management’s dark history

Content warning: This email and the talk it links to touch on disturbing subject matter, including slavery, that still actively causes harm within society.

As a PM, you hold the power to enact sustainable, ethical work processes that put people first. The power to increase your company’s margins without pushing your team anywhere near the brink of exhaustion. The power to reject rigidity and embrace the fact that we employ human beings—not robots—and being a human being is messy. as. hell. But PM power hasn’t always been a force for good.

In my latest workshop for the Vancouver Digital Project Manager meetup, I wanted to shine a light on the Dark History of PM, and how it:

  • Was created so we could ruthlessly treat human beings like economic units
  • Relied on the work of folks like Henry Gantt, whose family owned 66 enslaved men, women, and children, and whose tool many orgs still use today
  • Revolved around the sole idea of maximizing profit and minimizing risk no matter the human cost
  • Was optimized in the 1950s for the purpose of military operations

And if you think all of this is neatly tucked away in the past, we hate to be the bearer of bad news. Today’s practices mimic these systems with things like:

  • Punch cards and strict time tracking that goes down to the second
  • Companies using remote work to justify longer working hours
  • Surveillance apps that track productivity (and punishment for not meeting goals)
  • Companies that read through employee outbound emails
  • The cultural concept of the tyranny of work which tells us we are born to work and that work is our identity

You have the power to help your teams feel free. And free’s how we all deserve to feel.

Don’t worry, we’ve got ideas for how to change the future towards the end.

Watch ‘The Dark History of PM’ here:

Upcoming events

Stakeholder Management: Building your Work BICEPS

Learn how stakeholder empathy mapping and the BICEPS framework can build workplace democracy. Join Rachel for a free one-hour talk presented by Aten and explore how you can nurture relationships by seeing through the eyes of your colleagues and clients while building the trust you need to make change.

Let your PMs spin risk into gold

Your project managers are sitting on a project gold mine. In this session, you’ll learn how to empower your PMs and teams to handle risk (both positive and negative) and learn how to turn scope creep into future opportunities that take the pressure off the sales pipeline. Your PMs aren’t task pushers, they are the best business developers you never had. Find out how you can transform your PM approach and fix your pipeline after your projects have started.

New on Louder Than Ten

Common project manager interview questions (and answers)

Lau­ra Paine gives her favourite inter­view tips for aspir­ing project man­agers and project man­agers look­ing to make a career change.

“Throughout my experience, I have realized the most failproof way to ace an interview is to prepare equally for the questions that you will be asked as well as the questions you will ask. This is good practice for every field, but it’s essential in the vast and varied world of project management.”

191 questions to help you understand client needs

NEW! With new projects come new questions. Are you asking the right ones?

Train with Louder Than Ten

This 90-day course covers the fundamentals of democratic digital project management across 9 modules. There has never been a better time to get your projects right. Class is in session starting May 25th.

My expe­ri­ence with Loud­er Than Ten was not was I expect­ed… It was bet­ter… The pro­gram is wholis­tic. The course mate­r­i­al, sup­ple­men­tal read­ings, videos, labs, 1 – 21s, even the cohort sizes… all come togeth­er to not only make you a bet­ter PM but in fact a stronger and bet­ter human. I also appre­ci­at­ed that the instruc­tors were invest­ed. I felt and they demon­strat­ed that their goal was to ensure my learn­ing and devel­op­ment ver­sus rush­ing me through the pro­gram to move on to the next group.

Create your very own digital project management training mixtape with the help of Louder Than Ten. We’ll work with you to build a program that fits the needs of your team and organization and run a format and time period that works for you.

For any own­er of a ser­vice busi­ness, Loud­er Than Ten is an excel­lent short and long term resource for con­tin­u­ing to run an effi­cient, prof­itable, and peo­ple friend­ly busi­ness. If you’re think­ing about improv­ing the effi­cien­cy of your agency and the qual­i­ty of life for your team, LT10 is who you should turn to.

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