When I first read it, I found that one of the more interesting characters in Tom Clancy’s debut novel, The Hunt for Red October, was the political officer, Ivan Putin. His role is to ensure that the leadership and crew of the nuclear submarine were acting in alignment with the values and principles of the Soviet Union. He acts independent from the rest of the crew as his reporting relationship is to Moscow and not to the submarine’s leadership team. While the role is expected to help the crew navigate the complex set of rules and regulations, Ivan proves to be more of an impediment than an asset.
What does this have to do with project management, you ask? At the risk of offending some readers, it is about political correctness and cancel culture.
As I approach my mid-fifties, I recognize that there are behaviors, beliefs and phrases which were generally acceptable when I was growing up which are no longer so. And while I am comfortable receiving constructive feedback from others on how I could modernize my mindset, I also recognize that if I were working full- time in a project management role I might accidentally violate one of our new norms with potentially severe consequences to myself.
These day many folks no longer remember Hanlon’s Razor.
When leading projects, as the number of stakeholders increases the likelihood of causing unintentional offense will also increase. To prevent “cancellation” of project managers and their team members, perhaps we need a new PCO role to educate and help them avoid committing such errors. While that acronym normally stands for Project Control Officer (which is a support role similar to a Project Analyst or Project Coordinator) it might now stand for Political Correctness Officer.
Should our profession evolve (?) to warrant such a role, it would be advisable to remember the treatment which Ivan Putin received at the hands of Captain Marko Ramius.
(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on Amazon.com and on Amazon.ca as well as a number of other online book stores).
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