Managing the pyramids project

Nov 17 2015 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

Peter Drucker once said, “The greatest management job of all time was building the pyramids, and we’re just trying to live up to that standard ever since.” That is true, except that the guy in charge of that project was actually at the pyramids, and wasn’t trying to flog people by email. There were no conference calls or webinars on the Giza site. Most of us don’t have that advantage.

We often bemoan how hard it is to manage remotely, so it helps on occasion to get some perspective. The pyramids weren’t managed remotely, but they could have been, with the right planning and tools. Here are some similarities:

  • The client thinks they’re god… literally. The pyramids were built as tombs for the Pharaohs, who were thought of as gods on earth. No pressure there. Okay, so nothing’s changed….
  • If you think you have supply chain problems, imagine trying to get sandstone blocks delivered by UPS. And there was no room for error. Specs and expectations needed to be exact. Nothing’s changed.
  • Yes, people did the work, and it got done, but it took more effort to oversee them when they’re not willing participants. Are you generating buy-in and getting discretionary mindshare or managing to bare minimum standards? Also remember that if the workforce would rather spend 40 years crossing the desert than continue to work for you, maybe you need to work on your engagement practices.
  • Everything was clearly documented. Colorful pictures of eyeballs and stork-headed supervisors covering the walls had to be a lot more fun than spreadsheets…. Although probably no less difficult to interpret without guidance. Still, it allowed us to go back thousands of years later and figure out what happened. How’s your documentation?

So when we complain about having to do conference calls, the barrage of email, and the hours we’re putting in, remember: it could be worse.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.