Fighting Bears and Miniature Golf
And how it relates to project management...
Not too long ago, I re-watched one of my favorite movies, The Edge. If you've never seen this particular movie (modest spoiler alert), it's about a rich guy marooned in the Alaskan wilderness. Seeming doomed, he continuously reminds his companions about all of the books he has read and stories he has heard about wilderness survival. "What another man can do, I can do," he repeats almost endlessly.
As I write this I'm in Arizona, taking a sort of sabbatical with my lovely wife, Nancy. This morning's suggestion? "Let's go miniature golfing!! I need revenge for our last outing in Ocean City," she offered.
I had almost forgotten about that episode. I had six holes in one in a single game. I was unstoppable. And that is not my norm. Normally, I flail at the ball, getting maybe a single hole in one in a game or two.
She got her revenge. 43-40. I completely collapsed on two holes, garnering six strokes on one and five on the other. But I still was able to knock down three holes in one. And I did it by repeating my mantra, "What another man can do, I can do."
I channeled the spirit of "Chubbs" from the movie Happy Gilmore. Carl Weathers' character in the movie teaches the hapless Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) how to putt at a mini-golf course. His style is completely different from the ways I putted in the past. And it honestly works. I simply applied his style and did everything in my power to imitate the character.
In the workplace, we often feel outdone by those around us. They seem to have gifts that we cannot master. They approach clients in ways that seem outside our capabilities. And yet, they succeed. If we wish to step into their shoes we can do so, if we remember "What another can do, I can do." But we need to adopt the approach in toto. Half measures don't suffice. There's a reason others succeed where we fail, and we need to find the role model and capture the whole -- attitude, setup, and delivery.
FINDING THE ROLE MODEL
Role models are out there. The challenge is that we either aren't looking for them or we aren't willing to adopt them. I have had role models in my life that were living precisely the life I wanted to live, but weren't people I liked. Part of finding a role model is determining what aspects of the role model's role you wish to adopt. Do you want to look like them? Act like them? Prosper like them? If you're trying to pick someone to emulate, understand what aspects you want to emulate. Once you can find those aspects, then you can capture the critical aspects that contribute to the whole.
What another can do, I can do. Chubbs guided Happy Gilmore to enjoy the putting experience -- to go to his "Happy Place." I have to confess that I have trouble with that. I'm a competitive beast. I play to win, not for the joy of the game. Changing that attitude has made me a different miniature golfer.
Attitude in the project management community matters, too. One of my role models never seems to get stressed about anything, despite the inherent stresses of the job. When I asked him how he adopts such an attitude, he provided a very Chubbs-like answer. "I think about the end. I think about the goal. I imagine how things are going to be improved by the work we do. I spend some time in success." It sounded very much like his "Happy Place."
Emulating that aspect of his success been relatively easy to do. Assuming his attitude has consistently put me a step closer to being an effective project manager.
What another can do, I can do. Success is not organic. It does not generate itself. We need to create an environment for success. And we should be examining our role models to determine what environment is required to live the life they live.
I had a budding consultant ask me how I built my consulting practice. I explained the careful cultivation of clients, the authorship of books, and the generation of a reputation. I told him that it was all totally achievable if he was willing to set up the practice well. His reply? "That sounds like a lot of work."
It's rather amazing that we often want the trappings of a successful project management practice without recognizing that there's an environment required to make it work. We have to cultivate that environment. We need the tools, the culture and the climate to create success.
What another can do, I can do. We need to follow through. The weird physical position that Chubbs assumes to make a putt in Happy Gilmore is not something I find comfortable. And yet, the bizarre, full-body swing guides my golf ball flawlessly past the smiling clown and into the hole. I would never naturally use that approach, but successful putters apparently do. In project management consulting, I hear clients say, "We could never force our clients to fill out a change form for every change." And I explain to them that that's part of what successful delivery looks like. I explain that rigor is a key component of success.
It's sometimes amusing how the PMBOK Guide is held up as a standard of project management and yet, in delivery, many people argue that it's impracticable in application. It may feel uncomfortable or seem daunting in implementation, but there's a reason that it's considered a best practice. It's what others have done. It's where they've found consistency and success.
As we tee up our projects, we should be asking what the best practitioners do to succeed. What environment do they create? And then? What another can do, I can do.