The Wile E. Coyote Guide To Project Management

I bet you didn’t know it, but Wile E. was a project manager.

A specific breed of project manager.

So what lessons can we learn from our friend Wile E.? What made him so special?

Super Genius

You may remember, he preferred to use fantastic (and usually absurd) contraptions and elaborate plans to pursue his quarry.

His primary supplier was Acme Corporation, from which he procured complicated and usually ludicrous devices in the constant pursuit of success.

Two things usually happened with these devices upon implementation:

  • The devices fail in spectacular ways (Kablooie!)
  • The devices work, but operator error results in failure (Splat!)

But Why?

Why did our hero continuously end up smashed, blown up, or with a difference of opinion with gravity off a high ledge?

Like the time where Wile E. procured the Dehydrated Boulder, and then it became much larger than expected and crushed him?

Or the time he donned the Bat-Man outfit thinking it would make him fly, and it didn’t live up to his expectations?

Teach Us, Mr. Coyote

So what do I mean, he wasn’t a project manager, right?

No, not really. But he reminds me of many I know.

Wile E. Coyote relied on gadgets and tools, all of which either:

  • Didn’t work
  • Worked too well
  • Didn’t fit his needs
  • He didn’t know how to use
  • Introduced unnecessary risks

So thank you Wile E. for being the Tim Allen for my own project management career. You’ve taught me:

  • Simpler is better
  • Do only what adds value
  • An ounce of execution is worth a pound of whiz-bang software
  • No single solution fits all needs
  • Risk management is freak’n important

So, what has Wile E. Coyote taught you? Leave a comment and let us know.

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22 Comments

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Profile Photo Dannielle Blumenthal

Speak up early when there’s trouble rather than trying to CYA (as implied by the name “Wile”) or even worse spend lots of $$ on so-called “solutions” (the contraptions) that are just papering over the real problems.

Has anyone here taken a class at 4pm.com? They’re fantastic. Plus they have a free newsletter which is very informative and often hilarious.

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Profile Photo Josh Nankivel

Great point Dannielle. What if Wile E. Coyote had a team who wasn’t afraid to tell him a new idea was a really, really bad one? What if he actively encouraged feedback in that way?

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Profile Photo Allen Sheaprd

IMO Wile E Coyote never looked to see what could go wrong. He read the instruction. Put the device together correctly. The device worked as advertised – what could go wrong? That is what kept me watching.

Even the simplist ideas failed in the most unexpected ways! Really cool ways.

Ever notice how the road runner never used gadgets to outwit Mr. Coyote – super brain? Most times he just had fun running down the road.

BTW – from wikipedia ” The company name in the Road Runner cartoons is ironic, since the word acme is derived from Greek (ακμή; English transliteration: acmē) meaning the peak, zenith or prime, and products from the fictional Acme Corporation are both generic and tend to fail.”

Actions speak louder than trade marks Beep Beep! 🙂

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Profile Photo Sonya

Wile is a great example of the person who won’t utilize anyone else’s expertise. He’s a one man team, has all the answers, and is clearly not interested in information that doesn’t match his imagined reality no matter how many times he fails or reality drops a boulder on his head. I would have to imagine that if Wile were in an office, he would have ongoing high turnover as well as budgetary hairballs. I worked for a Wile one time. It was hell.

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Profile Photo Joe Flood

Coyote never asks himself “why”. Why is he chasing after the road runner? Is it a goal that’s worth his time? Maybe he should step back and reconsider his efforts.

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Susan Thomas

Josh,

A very creative post and so true. Wile’s obsession to catch the Roadrunner became his goal and not completion of his project(s).

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Profile Photo Allen Sheaprd

Good examples from Wile E. Coyote (yes there is one) – determination.
Starting a new project or company is hard. Some companies “die by suicide” long before cash runs out or profit made. Aruments happen, dreams fade, reality sets in.
Wile E. never gave up.
Look at FaceBook lagging behind MySpace for years. Many PCs where “IBM Compatible” before they took over.
I’m not sure how long or hard GovLoop was to take off but it should not have been easy.

Wile E. Coyote never became sour or abusive. How many people would go back to a company ACME after the last twenty items all blew up? Many would complain. A few might even retaliate.

For project management – do not quit. Do not die. Do not become sour and hateful. Keep grinning. Be pleasent to work with or watch.

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Profile Photo Elizabeth Jackson

Great post! Wile should have consulted with professionals that would simplify his quest to catch Roadrunner. He continued to waste time, money and effort with Acme, when he should have consulted with experts to streamline the process when the first couple trys did not go well.

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Profile Photo Deena Larsen

Never give up.–No matter what, just dust yourself off and try again.

After a certain point, it is really stupid never to give up. The better thing to do is step back, look at the previous patterns, determine what the actual goal is, and then re-group. But Wile E. could not do that.

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Profile Photo Gregory Butera

Maybe you never saw the episode, but the real reason ACME Corporation always let the Coyote down was that ACME was owned by the RoadRunner.

Lesson learned – do your due diligence on a company/tool before using it and try to discover hidden motivations that set you up for failure.

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Profile Photo Robert Wallin

How about that “Persistence Pays Premiums,” since I have seen the episode on youtube where the Coyote finally catches the Roadrunner. This particular blog has to be the funniest and yet most instructive in some time! Kudos!

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Profile Photo Eric Melton

If success is not realistic, and if efforts to reach the goal are too costly, maybe you should rethink your motivation and reevaluate your goal…

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Profile Photo Lloyd Petersen

It is the chase instinct that draws Wile E. to pursue a goal that might not meat his needs, may only leave a bad taste in his mouth – probably too little meat and tough to chew. And too many calories lost in procurement. But until he as tasted roadrunner . . . he can’t know. Distracted by the chase, he may be missing a nest full of scrumptious morsels. As others have commented – calls for an evaluation. lp

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Profile Photo Brett Husbands

Wile E. Coyote is a genuine innovator, who has plenty of opportunity to try new things, but somehow never learns from his mistakes. I don’t think it is fair to compare him to a project manager, which he certainly is not. Giving somebody latitude to make mistakes is a good thing, after all he wasn’t taking responsibility for the welfare of others or being responsible for taxpayer dollars.

I think we should learn the opposite from the intentional straw man here… trying and failing is OK, we all should do it, and we should learn from it.

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Profile Photo Mitchell Duran

The Road Runner was always too many steps ahead to be caught (the star of the show). This was foresight and preparation to make quick decisions with the ever changing landscape provide by Mr. Coyote.

Mr. Coyote on the other hand taught us innovation and creative thinking outside the box, with a gigantic measure of perseverance and what could be attained from an enormous line of credit from ACME. Although his goal could never be attained he always was just inches/millimeters away before he blew himself up, or got pounded with an iron anvil. We can all relate to Mr. Coyote through the trial and error periods of our lives. We all strive to be the Road Runner, tireless, sleek, successful, head of the pack and no one or not anything can catch us. Beep Beep!!

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