Note: The original version of this article was published on November 5th, 2009. At the time of this article, I was still a Project Manager. It explains the history of Hogarth and my first steps towards delivering sustainable value instead of just tracking work.
Welcome to the weekly team meeting!
It’s six months to go until the product ships. We just finished a gripping argument on what constitutes a pass in the QA test benchmarks. I’m not sure, but I think we settled on a 95% pass rate; it might be 90% I’d have to check my notes. We are now reviewing outstanding product change orders. Engineering wants to remove a major feature. Their argument is the project needs to catch up, and this feature will take too much work. As arguments dive into yet another rat hole, you realize that no one even mentions that your chief competitor is stealing market share hand over fist with their new release. A new release that is already better than your next planned release.
Not even with Hogarth sitting there, the business paper opened to an article all about our competition.
Oh, right! Meet Hogarth. He’s sitting down the table, wedged between the QA director and the product manager, quietly reading his newspaper and ignoring everyone else. It’s a bit of a tight fit, but what do you expect from an 800-pound gorilla?
Say hello to the “Gorilla in the Room.”
The phrase modifies the English idiom “the elephant in the room.” Wikipedia defines this as – “An obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed.” The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem no one wants to discuss. It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people who pretend the elephant is not there might be concerned with relatively small and even irrelevant matters compared to the looming big one.
Like many people in the ‘Valley’ (Silicon Valley), a good friend of mine and fellow Project Manager, Wendy WorthingtonBarnes, likes to call it the “Gorilla in the Room”; as so often that gorilla takes on the power of the 800-pound gorilla, “an overbearing entity in a specific industry or sphere of activity” (From UrbanDictionary.com). Just as Microsoft is the 800-pound gorilla of consumer operating systems, the team’s abject denial of the competitor’s new release is the 800-pound gorilla in the meeting.
As project managers, we find ourselves facing the gorilla all the time. Often, we are the only ones willing to address the gorilla, and we run into fascinating challenges in getting everyone else to face the gorilla. Sometimes, it isn’t possible and/or worth trying to talk to people about the gorilla. When that happens, you find yourself staring at him, doing your best to manage around him, and sometimes, since no one else will listen, talking to him.
That’s what the original “The Gorilla is Called Hogard” blog was about—observations and stories about the various gorillas I’ve encountered as a high-tech professional.
I call my gorilla Hogarth.
What do you call your gorilla?