ManagementSpeak: We have a terrific project opportunity for you.
Translation: We see this project as the Titanic, and we need someone to conduct the band.
IS Survivalist John Pfeifer explains the difference between a captain and a conductor.

Wanted: Brilliant physicist, to lead the Perpetual Motion Institute (PMI).

It’s a Catch-22. In Joseph Heller’s brilliant novel this badly misused metaphor was a combat exemption clause. To get it, you simply had to apply for it. Unfortunately, the act of applying for Catch-22 automatically disqualified you from receiving it. This would also be the case for anyone applying for PMI’s leadership position.

Here’s a Catch-22-enabled leadership position that really exists:

Senior Executive Program Manager: We are seeking a Senior Executive Program Manager (SEPM) to spearhead an enterprise-wide, cross-jurisdictional systems integration project using contemporary web and message-oriented middleware solutions to share comprehensive data among divisions organization-wide.

The SEPM, an enthusiastic visionary leader/change agent, will engender support for enterprise-wide, multi-jurisdictional organizational change and establish/manage a cross-functional team implementing numerous technology projects which encompass all levels of the organization.

Program History: This program was originally chartered to address the needs of a single business unit, but quickly evolved into a model for integration throughout the enterprise. It involves an enterprise-wide framework of people, processes, standards, and technology focused on achieving business goals and objectives. This framework involves significant investments in business process re-engineering and technology, requires the implementation of data and technology standards and accountabilities that apply across the board, and necessitates the development of cross-functional, highly interdependent governance structures.

Requirements: The successful candidate must have excellent communication, presentation and facilitation skills, and be able to communicate information convincingly to different audiences to build a strong coalition among stakeholders and end-users.

Benefits/Salary: Nowhere near enough.

* * *

What’s wrong with this position? The problems are merely insurmountable, that’s all. An enterprise-wide business change program with no enterprise-wide sponsorship is hopeless. There’s no highly placed, committed executive to arm-twist reluctant business-unit heads into providing the cooperation needed for success, nor is there the groundswell of end-user enthusiasm that can sometimes overpower even the most obstructionist executives.

There’s only a champion — someone who saw potential in a small, achievable project, inflated it to enterprise proportions, but failed to understand the prerequisites of enterprise-wide change.

So there can’t be a highly qualified program manager to lead the charge. Why?

It’s Catch-22: Applying for this job automatically disqualifies the applicant.