My Project Management course began with introductions. There was a soldier, a Health Service person, a Business Analyst, a Spanish Chemist and then a whole raft of people from either the Tax Office or the Department for Work & Pensions. They all seemed to share a strange coded bureaucratic language, which they used to describe what they did and what their role was in their department. After the third of these types stammered his way through his introduction I looked around the room. His colleagues were easy to spot. They all wore public sector cardigans and they had all settled on a comfort hairstyle at some point in the late 1980’s. If there isn’t already a collective noun for people like this, it could be:
When the last of them spoke in a monotone, I settled on:
The course leader was, in contrast, very jolly. He breathed life into an intrinsically dull subject with anecdotes featuring his wife as the intransigent ‘executive’ of all of his projects. He kept my attention for nearly all of the 5 days of the training and coached us well on how to pass the exam – essentially by polishing off the easy questions as soon as possible to gain confidence. He memorably described the easier questions as ‘low hanging fruit.’
Although I tried to hang back in the corridor, the tide of course delegates sweeping towards the vending machines carried me along. I inevitably ended up stood next to the smallest man on the course – in fact one of the smallest men I have ever met. We chatted awkwardly and I tried not to bend to hear what he was saying. It was something about the fact that the machine was free.
I am unusually tall and meeting unusually small people is always tense – as we are both conscious of our difference. Very small people are the only people who don’t brazenly ask ‘how tall are you?’ I sat down and ranked the encounter close to the top of my list of embarrassing run-ins with unusually small people. I then recalled the encounter that still sits, unchallenged, at the head of the list:
I used to ‘work out’ at a gym in the middle of Newcastle.
The gym had an L-shaped changing room for men.
I once turned the corner of the L-shaped changing room and suffered a naked head-on collision.
I collided with a naked dwarf.
The man’s bald head brushed my genitals.
Thanks to the jolly course leader and the accelerated pace of the course, my learning about Project Management proved to be a much more positive experience than my last attendance on a business course. That course was led by a man called Peter - with a deep tan and very prominent cufflinks. He began by saying something along the lines of:
‘Everything you do is a project. Getting here today was a project that you had to plan, cost and deliver.’
Peter’s approach was to soliloquize for at least an hour at a time. He would then ask questions designed to expose inattention. It was about halfway through the course that Peter singled me out and asked me what I saw when I entered my house and looked up the stairs.
I realise now that midway through a training course designed to nurture positive business thinking I was expected by the course leader and my fellow delegates to say something like ‘the future!’ or ‘potential!’. I disappointed Peter. I disappointed everyone. I answered: