War of the Worlds - Lessons Learned from the Martian Invasion (A Martian Perspective)

by Carl Pritchard, PMP, EVP

Project: Invasion of Earth
Desired Outcome: Colonization of New Mars
Schedule: 120 years
Actual Outcome: Mission on Hold after Phase II, under reconsideration

What went right:

The team had an outstanding beginning and some of the best minds on Mars came up with strategies to ensure that we would achieve global infiltration and have an effective means of craft and personnel delivery. Suggested elements to keep from the Initiation processes:

Kickoff Meeting – The kickoff meeting united the political and logistical sides of the house by clearly defining the vision and the approach. Without clarity on that, we probably wouldn't have been able to get management to drag their tentacles out of the Dark Ages and sign off on the thing. Their mark on the "New Mars Pact" was probably the single most important thing we accomplished.

Initial Risk Analysis – This will also show up under the larger failings of the project, but it is noteworthy that we did identify the risk that ultimately caused the project to be less of a success than it might otherwise have been. We identified risks well in the attached document. Note that habitability was identified early on as a critical risk (granted it was also identified on the Venus and Mercury options). We tried to keep it upbeat and on an "opportunity" perspective by flagging planets as having the risk of being "inhabitable," rather than uninhabitable. In the future, a negative or "threat" perspective might be more appropriate in getting management to be sufficiently paranoid about the possibilities. Still, we take some silent pride in the fact that we did identify this from the very outset as one of the significant risks on the project. In retrospect, as is discussed later in this document, we might have wanted to actually do something with the risk document besides file it with management and load it into the "New Home" directory on the LAN.

Prototype Pilot – Sending out an early mission was an act of sheer genius. It worked on a variety of levels. Who would have thought that the first canister would actually land in that movie director's estate? Mr. Spielberg took in one of our pilots, nursed him back to health, and sent him back to us. I understand he later used elements of the visitation in a film. Unfortunately, when the pilot died upon his return to Mars, we presumed it was from Reese's Pieces® poisoning. We posted alerts and warnings for all pilots to avoid these small comestibles, but never imagined that something else also might have caused the pilot's illness. The mission (and subsequent film) did serve to create a sense of "friendly aliens" on the Earth, something that worked very heavily to our advantage in the early hours of the invasion.

Launch Timing – Our research into human behavior around holidays was invaluable. Launching the mission at Halloween (a human holiday involving bizarre costumes, excessive sugar intake and vegetable defacement) was a masterstroke. It helped mask our true intent for hours, if not days. For the next assault (if we try again), we may wish to consider an attack near the Winter Solstice, and dress our pilots in red uniforms with white trim. For some reason, humans consider individuals dressed in such a fashion to be their friends.

What went wrong:

Risk Follow-through – Perhaps the greatest failing of the mission was that we never revisited the risk list that we generated in the early days of the project. In fact, we were so thrilled with our efforts up through the construction phase that very few of the actual flight and invasion risks were ever captured or dealt with. For future missions, we definitely need to revisit the risks at regular intervals. And we need to seriously examine those risks that involve total loss of mission crews. Management felt they were not sufficiently alerted to these, and their contention was backed up in the Greenmen Accountability Office (GAO) report that cited our risk efforts as deficient after the initial analysis. SUGGESTION: We should have gotten signatures from the head office on any risks that might have taken that heavy a toll.

Temporal and Physical Distance – While there's nothing we could have done to lessen the temporal and physical distance between Mars and Earth, we should have taken into account that a team completely cut off from the home world will be in dire peril at some point or another. If it had not been a bacterial infection, some other Earth-borne challenge would have invariably taken its toll on our personnel. SUGGESTION: We should have had regular rotations of personnel back from the Earth and should have had a strategy for quick returns (a way station on the Moon, perhaps?) that would not require that they bridge the entire gulf between the two planets.

Current Status:

Management has indicated that the Earth Colonization project is on the "back burner" for the time being and may be seriously reconsidered in about two Earth decades. We strongly suggest that these lessons learned be made part of the project methodology before such an effort is undertaken. We also suggest that rather than dragging out the "New Mars Project" for another 20 years, that this project be terminated and a new project be initiated when the organizational climate is more favorable. The taint of the existing project may linger for years and years to come, and there is no reason to saddle another project manager with the baggage from the original effort.

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