On the Subject of Black Elephants2



By Ann Stewart

Portsmouth, United Kingdom


11 June 2020

Ref: Pells, D. (2020). Black Elephants and… maybe Project Management, PM World Journal, Vol IX, Issue VI, June


Dear David,

I have just read your Editorial article today, “Black Elephants … and maybe Project Management,” with great interest (PMWJ [ISSN: 2330-4480] Vol. IX, Issue VI – June 2020).

Thank you for giving your readers the opportunity to comment.  What you wrote was very compelling, as I am exploring this area for my research in project management and have been musing over this subject area for a little while, so it has brought a breath of fresh air back into my thinking and more impetus to get on with my research.

It all started in the summer of 2018 with a book I read by Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik (2018) called “Meltdown – Why Our systems Fail and what can we do about it?”   The context for this was at a busy International Airport in UK (Gatwick) waiting excitedly for my flight for a “holiday in the sun” only to be disappointed when an announcement was made to inform travellers on the flight that it was delayed by 6 hours.   The irony was the announcement came at the very moment I was feeling pleased that I always travel with a reliable airline which had never let me down in the past 18 years of my experience in aviation travel! Apart from getting a free meal voucher as a compensator, I was entertained for the duration of the flight delay by Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik’s book “Meltdown”.  My husband bought this in the airport shop thinking it would calm me down while he entertained himself with a gripping “John Le Carré” crime thriller fictional Book.  “Meltdown” was so fascinating as a practical evidence-based thought provoking book on why disasters, blunders, failures and so on, keep repeating themselves throughout history.  Yet it did get me thinking as to what extent we are really learning how to avoid these meltdowns (if they can be foreseeable) and the impact it brings on society as a whole when meltdowns do take place, as well as to individual lives of those affected…



To read entire Letter to the Editor, click here


How to cite this work: Stewart, A. (2020). On the Subject of Black Elephants, Letter to the Editor, PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VII, July. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/pmwj95-Jun2020-Stewart-on-black-elephants-Letter-to-Editor.pdf