Alexander and the Indian King – Part 6



By John Schlichter

Georgia, USA



If PMI’s next CEO proceeded boldly to recast PMI’s values in a way that prioritized institutionalizing project management by focusing exclusively on delivering only those products and services that PMI alone can furnish in its role as the premiere trade association for project management, the chief executive could expect to be celebrated like Alexander the Great upon cutting the Gordian Knot and fulfilling the prophecy that doing so would unite the world. This is the one thing everyone is waiting for a capable leader to address capably, and I have put so much effort into making this case because it breaks my heart that the institute’s leaders have lost their way.

As stated at the outset, the popular story goes that Alexander encountered the Gordian Knot almost immediately after assuming his leadership role, much as PMI’s incoming CEO is confronted by his own knot before the honeymoon has even started. An oracle foretold that the first person to dismantle the knot’s intractable yoke would become the ruler of the known world. Alexander slashed the knot in two with his sword, conquered Persia and pivoted to India’s subcontinent. One account goes that upon defeating an Indian king, Alexander asked the king how he wanted to be treated, and the king invoked the Golden Rule, replying “How would you wish to be treated?” In this scenario, the parallel is a PMI CEO that asks those who feel broken-hearted by PMI how they wish to be treated. Alexander was so impressed by the king that he returned his lands and title. The leader brought peace to the land by invoking values and choosing courageously what not to do. It was not essential to Alexander’s purpose for Alexander to totalize the Indian king’s domain, and Alexander relied on a clear value system that enabled him to make an immensely wise choice. An alternative history told by some Indians to this day is that Alexander was defeated by the king, inspiring Alexander to ask for a halt to hostilities. By that account, the Indian king agreed to his opponent’s plea for peace, as that was the Indian custom, not only invoking the Golden Rule but embodying that value. It was not essential to the Indian king’s purpose for him to harm Alexander, his remaining leaders, or anyone who followed him. The king relied on a clear value system that enabled him to make an immensely wise choice. In either case, whether the legacy belonged to an emperor or to a king, a wise leader brought peace to the land by invoking values and choosing courageously what not to do.

At the outset of this missive, I wrote therein lies a lesson for PMI’s incoming CEO: true leaders base their decisions on clear value systems that enable them to focus on what is essential to their purpose by choosing courageously not to do things that are not essential to their purpose. That’s a simple heuristic for PMI’s CEO to check the endless ambitions of anyone’s inner Alexander. If PMI’s incoming CEO required PMI to reflect on PMI’s essence, that should reveal PMI’s essential purpose and function, i.e. that PMI’s essential purpose is to cause every corner of society to take it for granted that project management is the way to solve society’s wicked problems at all scales (and to solve the problems those solutions create), and that doing so requires that PMI’s essential function is to distinguish grades of project managers based not merely on knowledge but competence (culminating in project managers on par with lawyers and doctors). That enlightened realization unravels the first layer of the Gordian Knot, which shows that what matters most is the public’s perception that professional project managers adhere competently to technical standards in an ethical manner. That means the essence of PMI’s purpose is an essential function that relies on only two essential actions: 1) development of technical and ethical standards that are vetted in practice, and 2) arbitration of certifications in those standards that signify competence and adherence. Anyone who realizes these things will experience enlightenment like a light bulb going off in his head. It is an “ah ha!” moment that simplifies everything.

It’s why PMI doesn’t need to get into the business of developing project scheduling software that others like Microsoft Corporation can do just as well or better than PMI. It’s why PMI doesn’t need to offer project management training that others like Emory University can do just as well or better than PMI. It’s why PMI doesn’t need to offer courses, certifications, or self-assessment products pertaining to strategy design that top tier strategy management consulting firms like McKinsey can do just as well or better than PMI. It’s why PMI doesn’t need to offer products or services pertaining to assessing Organizational Project Management (OPM) maturity or increasing OPM capabilities that others like OPM Experts LLC can do just as well or better than PMI. But here’s the catch: neither Microsoft Corporation, Emory University, McKinsey & Company, OPM Experts LLC nor any similar company can lead and arbitrate development of the technical and ethical standards that predicate project management in ways that will permeate society and elevate project management competency certifications as effectively as PMI can. PMI is uniquely positioned to proffer project management certifications as respected as any adopted by paralegals and lawyers or paramedics and doctors. It is not essential to PMI’s purpose for PMI to totalize any of the domains of any other company whatsoever to do that.


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How to cite this article: Schlichter, J.  (2019). Alexander and the Indian King: Part 6; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue X, November.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/pmwj87-Nov2019-Schlichter-Alexander-and-the-Indian-King-Part6.pdf



About the Author

John Schlichter

Atlanta, GA, USA



John Schlichter coined the term “Organizational Project Management” or “OPM,” which is the system for implementing the business strategy of an organization through projects. OPM became a global standard and is how companies throughout the world deliver projects valued in billions if not trillions of dollars. “John has contributed greatly to PMI,” Greg Balestrero, CEO, PMI Today, 2002. “In John’s role as the leader of PMI’s OPM3 program, he has immeasurably contributed to the growth of the profession,” Becky Winston, J.D., Chair of the Board of Directors, PMI Today, 2002. Having created OPM3© (an international standard in project, program, and portfolio management), John founded OPM Experts LLC, a firm delivering OPM solutions and a leading provider of maturity assessment services. Industry classifications: NAICS 541618 Other Management Consulting and NAICS 611430 Training. John is a member of the adjunct faculty of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

John can be contacted at jschlichter@opmexperts.com or frank.john.schlichter.iii@emory.edu.

To view more works by John Schlichter, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-schlichter/