More PM Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote

Wile E. Coyote & Road RunnerA few years ago, Josh Nankivel published a short, tongue-in-cheek essay about the project management lessons we could learn from Wile E. Coyote. I think most of us are familiar with the pathetic cartoon character, his fanatical pursuit of the Road Runner, and his perpetually cataclysmic failures. Josh posted several maxims that should resonate with anyone who spent a few Saturday mornings in front of the television. I thought it was an interesting place to get some inspiration, and the idea stayed with me.

“A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” – George Santayana

So, with a tip of the hat to Josh, the late Chuck Jones, and Carnivorous Vulgaris himself, here are a few observations made across far too many of my Saturday mornings:

  • Innovation requires you to do things you don’t really understand.
  • There are usually excellent reasons why some things have never been done before.
  • Failure does not respect confidence.
  • When operating near a cliff, avoid stretch goals.
  • It’s safer to fly than it is to land. Corollary: Navigation matters, a lot.
  • Business cards are not particularly objective.
  • Acme Tornado KitA good vendor should be treasured, and a bad vendor should be discarded.
  • Persistence is only admirable briefly. Before you can learn from your failures, you have to acknowledge them.
  • Complicated solutions have more ways to fail.
  • If you won’t read the instructions, at least read the warnings.
  • Don’t use a prototype in production.
  • The faster your target moves, the less chance you have of hitting it.
  • You don’t have to build a restaurant in order to have lunch.
  • There’s no safe way to operate an anvil near a cliff. Corollary: Everything falls faster than an anvil.
  • You don’t actually start to fall until you realize you’ve walked off the cliff.
  • Before you inspect the dynamite, remember to disconnect the wires.

And from the Road Runner:

  • Vegetarians don’t have to chase their food.
  • Follow your nature.
  • Stay on the road.
  • A short, simple vocabulary communicates more effectively (beep, beep!).

All images copyright Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.

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About Dave Gordon

Dave Gordon is a project manager with over twenty five years of experience in implementing human capital management and payroll systems, including SaaS solutions like Workday and premises-based ERP solutions like PeopleSoft and ADP Enterprise. He has an MS in IT with a concentration in project management, and a BS in Business. He also holds the project management professional (PMP) designation, as well as professional designations in human resources (GPHR and SPHR) and in benefits administration (CEBS). In addition to his articles and blog posts, he curates a weekly roundup of articles on project management, and he has authored or contributed to several books on project management.