The execution of any complex and original work of engineering in the modern world requires an enormous amount of planning. To be fair, this was very probably true in the ancient world as well: no doubt the construction of the pyramids at Giza suffered from the same timescale slippages and cost overruns, although the penalties for failure in those days might have been more fatally draconian than the twenty-first century equivalent.

In today's world, a successful delivery is only possible if one ensures the cooperation of a huge number of individuals, groups and companies, including both contractors with their own commercial interests and corporations with which one’s own organisation is in direct competition, even while trying to deliver different parts of the same end-to-end solution. It's an immensely difficult, tedious, time-consuming and, most telling of all, frustrating process. So it follows that, for all their power and influence, project managers on such projects are, as a breed, inevitably and intensely frustrated individuals.

Old picture of the great pyramid at Giza The modern project manager has a vast array of proven techniques at his disposal: flowcharts and swim-lanes and Gantt charts to help plan out the phases of design and build, the testing of operational readiness and user acceptance, the processes of turnovers and systems implementations, all of the paraphernalia of planning which has evolved over hundreds of years.

But, such rigorous planning is not enough. Simply put, project managers find to their immense annoyance that there is usually one thing, one essential step, for which they cannot plan. They can't plan for that spark of imagination, of intelligent insight, that creates a truly original solution that is both elegant and cost-effective, one which will actually work.

Project managers are inherently beholden to the creative geniuses, something which certainly adds to their levels of personal frustration.

For successful projects, that flash of insight does happen; a Miracle Occurs at some point in the process, although it rarely happens on schedule and it is sometimes difficult to know that it actually has happened, at least until well after the event. Experienced project managers know, in their heart of hearts, that they just have to give the genuinely creative the space and time to come up with the Big Idea, otherwise their project, in spite of the endless hours of planning and estimating, is doomed to failure.

And me? I'm one of those ever-frustrated project managers, trying to do a good job in the midst of chaos and change and miscommunications, spiced with the occasional tantrums of the creative divas when they feel they are not getting their own way.

Introduction Part 2