Recommended: Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Imperial Life in the Emerald CityIt’s hard to imagine a more damning project post-mortem than Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, which will be only vaguely familiar to those who’ve seen the Matt Damon movie loosely based on it. (And by “loosely,” I mean The Serpent and the Rainbow loosely.)

The book is no thriller: it details, misstep by misstep, the failures of both people and process in the aftermath of the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, with particular focus on the cronyism and ivory tower economics which would ultimately define  L. Paul Bremer’s viceroyship.

The similarities between partisan nation building and boardroom strategy are striking, from endemic underappreciation of resourcing needs, to failing to realign priorities with actual ground conditions, to marginalizing the very stakeholders who will eventually inherit responsibility for the long-term maintenance of a project. It’s hard to say which is most worrisome: what this says about project management as a profession, what this says about the checks and balances in our system of government, or what this says about our unwillingness to watch Matt Damon in a movie where he’s not required to run.

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