Happy St. Patrick’s Day

17 March, 2014

Many foreigners believe that St. Patrick became Ireland’s patron saint because he invented Guinness. This is not the case, although if Arthur Guinness ever is declared a saint, it is possible that Patrick might lose his patron saint status. No, St. Patrick’s claim to fame is that he banished snakes from Ireland.

Sadly, for Patrick, he lived in a time before the Project Management Institute was founded, so he did not benefit from studying for the PMP® exam or indeed, it was unlikely that any other form of project management certification was available to him. But despite not having any project management training, today’s project managers will see some of their discipline in what he did.

Interestingly, when St. Patrick (or just plain Patrick as he was then) was preparing his Project Charter, he probably would not have mentioned snakes as part of his project scope. This is because Patrick came to Ireland to promote Christianity – not to set up an extermination business.

So the scope of the project would be to gain a certain market share. As we PMPs® know, all requirements must be measurable and testable, so Patrick probably planned to record all baptisms along the way. How many such conversions would be considered a success is lost in the midst of time. Not having been trained in project management, Patrick never archived the project’s documents, so scholars have never seen the original Requirements Document, or indeed the Scope Statement.

But stakeholder management was where Patrick really made his mark. He arrived in a country where the druids ruled, so he quickly realized that he would have to trump anything they came up with. He also realized that, even if he did something to show that Christianity was a better option, he had to make sure that the event and the cause would be linked. We call this Project Communication Management today.

So he did some market research. He went out among the Irish people and learned what their issues were. Again, history does not recall if he carried out Pareto Analysis on his findings, or indeed if was he using an ancient form of cause and effect analysis. Certainly, there are no records of Ishakawa, or fishbone diagrams being used, although the ichthus fish symbol has been used by Christians since the earliest times, so it might be possible.

However he arrived at his conclusion, Patrick decided that snakes represented the biggest blight for the Irish. So he set out his plans to eliminate snakes. Again, history is hazy on how he did this. For Christians, he summoned up a miracle – again something project managers are expected to do regularly in modern times. But the biggest risk Patrick faced was in not getting the credit for the end of snakes.

So he had to embark on an information campaign. He had to declare a hard deadline on his schedule and make sure that all his potential converts were there to witness all the snakes making their way to the ferry (being pre-Viking times, we can assume that Stena Line was not running then).

Seeing as Ireland is a largely Christian country today, Patrick’s success is unquestioned. His approach to solving his problem showed exemplary stakeholder and scope management. Although he appears to have banished the snakes single-handed, he seems to have had a very accommodating project sponsor in God, who convinced the snakes that Ireland was no longer a good place to do business in.

It would be interesting to conduct a similar project today. What miracle would convince cynical, world weary Ireland to adopt a new religion? What snakes would a modern day St. Patrick need to banish to get us on his side? At least if Patrick were to arrive in Ireland, he would do well to sail into Kinsale and spend some time with Velopi Ltd., learning about project management and studying the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Armed with his PMP® certification, Patrick would be best prepared to tackle the job ahead.

Velopi’s project management training courses are open to everyone interested in project management – even those without project management experience. While Saints are welcome, our doors are open to everyone regardless of colour or creed. Being aware that very few of our students are capable of bi-location (or evicting snakes) we run our project management certification courses in Dublin, CorkLimerick and Galway. Find out more by visiting our training page or by contacting us directly.

By Velopi Seamus Collins

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