The tension in the conference room was thicker than black pudding and twice as vile. Marc and his boss, Greg, sat on one side of the table. Across from them were the Consultancy Drones, each in a grey suit with a Bluetooth ear-piece pinned to their ears. At the head of the table sat Judy, the project sponsor. Projected on the wall behind her were Gantt charts and dashboards and metrics.

Much of what was on the screen glowed a baleful red.

A few months ago, the Consultancy Drones beamed in to “assist” with the latest of many rounds of “business process improvement”. Upon arrival, they started assimilating everyone and everything into their Collective. The project was a sprawling tangle of interlocking parts which touched on nearly every business function. To move anything forward, massive IT efforts were required. The Consultants had constructed the project plan without ever discussing the matter with IT. They had laid out the moving parts, they had identified the critical path, they had talked to the businesses, and they had tied up millions of dollars and a millennium of man-years into the project.

“And now the project is in danger,” Consultant Three-of-Four said. He glared at Marc. Beside him, the other consultants nodded in unison. “There is an obstacle in the critical path. There is a risk to the project.”

“Obstacles must be removed,” Consultant Two-of-Five chimed in. “Risks must be removed.”

Consultant Three-of-Four

“The development effort for Milestone Eight was estimated at six weeks,” Consultant Three-of-Four said. “Our internal development team agrees that six weeks is sufficient for Milestone Eight. They have reviewed the requirements with us. But you insisted on using internal IT for this.”

Judy grimaced and said, “Well, budget constraints… and… well…”

“Your IT is inferior,” Consultant Three-of-Four continued. “Our IT could deliver this milestone. Yours cannot. The project is at risk.”

Marc did not slam his face into the table until he lost consciousness, which would have been more pleasant than sitting in this meeting. The meeting was well into its fourth hour. In the past week, he had suffered through five similar meetings, with the only variations being the managers present and the insults the Consultants lobbed at internal IT.

Judy turned on her “meaningful management” voice, and said, “Marc, you need to understand how important this project is. We’re all pulling together to make this project successful, and you’re getting in the Consultant’s way. Why is that?”

“We cannot design and implement this software in six weeks,” Marc said.

“What Marc means,” his boss cut in, using his own management voice, “is that we definitely could deliver this software in six weeks. It’s just that there might be some concerns about the requirements.”

“There aren’t any requirements!” Marc blurted out.

“Incorrect!” Consultant Two-of-Five barked. “Requirements are 100% complete. No requirements have changed. The project plan is based on those requirements.”

Judy pointed to the projected Gantt chart. “As you can see, Marc, the requirements were completed on the 14th, and have been frozen since then.”

“May I see them?” Marc asked.

“Excuse me?”

“May I see them? If the requirements are complete, where are they? I still haven’t seen them.”

“Requirements are 100% complete!” Consultant Three-of-Four said. “Your internal IT is being purposefully difficult, and I do not believe that they want this project to succeed. Resistance is futile. Our development staff can implement these requirements in six weeks.”

Judy looked back and forth between Marc and the Consultants. She looked thoughtful as she said, “I have to admit, I haven’t actually read the requirements… could I get a copy?”

“Requirements are 100% complete!” Consultant Three-of-Four repeated. After an uncomfortable pause, he continued, “But they are not yet documented.