The Gorilla Hero- Project Management’s Super Power

“Preparing shock, move away from the patient! “
What the? The sound was muffled by the partially closed door to my office. I shoved open the door of my office to see what was going on. And promptly wished I was still in the quarterly business review being grilled by the CFO.
A massive gorilla was kneeling in the center of my office. His massive torso obscured my view of what was beyond him and only made me more concerned as all I could see were a pair of human legs that I assumed were connected to a body lying on the floor.
“Shock will be delivered in 3, 2,…”
“Hogarth!” I rushed into the room, trying to see who my personal gorilla was leaning over. My mind praying it wasn’t Bob as he still owed me the initial set of product owner user stories to start release planning. In retrospect, not the most compassionate thought, but it was the heat of the moment. \
“Shock delivered, it is now safe to touch the patient.”
I cleared Hogarth to look down on his victim. Only to find the empty eyes of a CPR dummy staring up at me. A portable AED was lying next to the dummy, it’s cables snaking out to the test pads stuck on the dummy’s chest.  
“Hogarth!, what are you doing?” You’d think I’d get tired of asking this, given how often I find myself asking it in any given week.
Looking unnaturally large as he hovered over the mannequin Hogarth pointed at the device. “Practicing,” he said matter of factly. “Don’t you remember the CERTtraining is coming up? I want to be ready when we go.”
“Hogarth, I’m not signing up for the Community Emergency Response Team.” I stepped over the CPR dummy and made my way to my desk.

“Really?” Hogarth said. “I would have thought you would have jumped at the chance. You’re always advocating people do more. You know responsible authority and all?” 

I sighed. “Yes, I do believe in stepping up, but that’s different.  I’ve got nothing to offer for CERT. I’m just a software project manager. I don’t have any medical training, I don’t know jack about construction and if you hadn’t noticed I’m far from what you’d call a Greek god of fitness. I’m anything but fire fighter material.”
Hogarth settled back on his haunches. One long arm snaked out to my bedraggled fichus and came back with a branch. “Uh huh,” he mumbled through a mouthful of leaves. “Let me ask you this, when you are brought in to help on a problem project, what do you do?”
I didn’t have a clue where Hogarth was going with this. I did know that this was familiar ground for me. “Easy, start by gathering data, figure out what’s gone wrong, create an “state of the project”, create a plan of action to correct, execute and then keep going back through the cycle in a tight iteration loop until the project is on track or done.”
Hogarth nodded. “Interesting. Sounds a lot like this.” He handed me a printed PowerPoint slide that bore the title “CERT Sizeup.”

More than a little annoyed at this delay, to my getting real work done, I skimmed my eyes over the slide. I blinked. I read the slide more closely, taking in each of the nine steps a CERT team goes through when assessing an emergency scene. “Oh… my… That’s”

Hogarth nodded, “Just like project management?”

I really hate it when he’s right.
Project Management is Leadership and Leadership is needed
In many ways this blog ties back to the Responsible Authority Gorilla.  No matter our authority, we have a responsibility to the project. Combine this with the ethics taught by professional certifications like the PMP and I argue this responsibility extends to helping those around us, with the skills we have developed.

That’s all well and good, but project management isn’t exactly a life saving skill?

Really? Take a look at the slide Hogarth showed me. It is from the national Community Emergency Response Team training for sizing up an emergency site.

Looks familiar, doesn’t it? The process a CERT member goes through, to assess and deal with an emergency situation, is a lot like what we project managers go through when dealing with a project. I’ve seen lighter weight process frameworks than the CERT checklist. When you start learning about the Incident Command System, a national standard framework for how multi-agency and jurisdiction response to a disaster is handled, then you really see how our training, as project leaders, can be an asset to our community.

I’m currently taking CERT from my local city. This free training is offered by many communities to create a core of citizen volunteers that can help out in the event of disasters or major emergencies. When fire and medical is overwhelmed, CERT teams are become the “First Responders” and can often make a difference between life and death. Most of my fellow class mates are taking the class as a response to the “Glenview incident”, what most of the world calls the San Bruno Gas Pipeline explosion. I, on the hand, am continuing a long tradition of community service.

I first learned CPR and First Aid in college as part of the Resident Assistant program for my dorm. I eventually ended up as the ERT Captain for one of my former companies, over seeing a team for a 1500 person campus. In the course of that time I’ve contributed to saving at least two lives and preventing several more people from having more serious injuries had I not been a first responder while the fully trained medical people were still in transit.

I’m no hero. I believe in helping others and I’ve learned that the skills I use to manage troubled projects are just as effective in managing the response to a disaster or medical emergency.

Good project management can change the world. Even if it is just one band aid at a time.

Joel Bancroft-Connors

The Gorilla Talker

Want me to talk to your gorilla? Send me an email, jbancroftconnors@gmail.com

You can follow me on twitter, @JBC_PMP

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