Project Practitioners > Stages of Learning: The Jeet Kune Do Way

Stages of Learning: The Jeet Kune Do Way

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


One month ago, I wrote an article discussing the endless cycle of being a newbie in an everchanging world. If you strive to get better, learning is a must. Learning takes place in victory and defeat. A project manager must learn technical aspects of the job and industry as well as more obtuse concepts like how team members work together and how office politics are played.

Learning develops in stages. No one is born with the knowledge to engineer an automobile or design a program. This knowledge is gained through experience, reading, writing, and various other ways. Conversations occur over time that lead to a direction of education.

Some feel the sciences better suit their style while others prefer the arts. Some take a more traditional approach like going to school while others learn by doing and enter the workforce as soon as possible. A path to management unveils itself along the way when that thought seemed foreign at the beginning of your journey.

Change is the only constant. The best way of handling change is to learn and adapt.

Bruce Lee founded the martial art Jeet Kune Do. The objective of Jeet Kune Do is to take techniques from every martial art, see what works for you and what does not, and then apply them to your style. There is no one size fits all policy.

The same goes for project management. Certain organizations run a tight ship. There are standards of performance that must be followed. If you do not adhere to these policies, you will not last long. Other organizations are free forming. Use what works for you.

In learning what works for you, you go through three stages of learning.


  1. Ignorance (Beginner)

The first part is ignorance because you know nothing. I remember my first day on the job as a laborer and learning the names of the equipment was a task. To communicate effectively, the yellow thing with the bucket does not mean anything to anyone. A front-end loader is specific to the equipment and lets the operator know what you are talking about.

This initial ignorance is frustrating. Every detail seems important. You will want to know everything yet you know nothing. The learning curve appears impossible. How do you know where the best dump sites in the area are for off-site trucking? How do you know how many widgets can be produced in one day?

For experienced people, these answers are not thought of; they come naturally. Common knowledge develops over time. You, the beginner, are lost immediately.



  1. Knowledge (Advanced)

In stage two, the world starts to make sense. Dots connect. Lines are drawn. You start to put together pieces that, in stage one, appeared to have no connection at all. Equipment names are easily referenced. You start to become friendly with suppliers and stakeholders where conversations that were once awkward are now fluid.

You have a reference for what you say in the knowledge stage. Instead of reading it in a book or hearing it somewhere, you now experience it. You can honestly say this material is the best because you used it and it worked.

Comparing notes takes place at this stage. You find out what works for your organization, compare that with another, and compile a style that fits your needs. Take the martial art Jeet Kune Do example. Maybe your body is unable to throw a high kick, so you rely more on grappling. If you have difficulty taking someone down, your style revolves around striking.

Project management is the same. Some project managers feel better with a hands-on approach while others bring in subject matter experts to disperse the knowledge.


  1. Simplicity (Master)

You have taken your lumps as an ignorant green hand. You gain knowledge in the intermediate step. Finally, simplify your knowledge. There is no reason to know absolutely everything and try to use that information at all times.

Sometimes, the simplest solution works most of the time. Reverting to the basics is the most effective strategy. Why do you think the basics are taught? Usually, basic techniques are the most fundamental approaches because they always have a place.

The latest and greatest might burn out like a shooting star. It appears bright and exciting but then quickly fades away. In turn, the sun remains constant. It rises in the East and sets in the West. You take the sun for granted. You see it every day. There is no excitement.

A shooting star, on the other hand, has excitement. You rarely see them, and when you do, they are spectacular. Shining bright and sprinting across the sky.

Incorporate shooting stars as you see fit, but rely on the sun. Nothing beats a solid schedule built around a solid estimate. Pencil and paper can create those.



I vividly remember the stages of learning while learning math. There were numbers and letters that somehow led to an answer. Memorizing multiplication and fraction tables was part of the deal. Ignorance turned to knowledge. Now I could perform long division and get the right answer.

After the knowledge foundation was built, enter calculators. You can throw out all of the long division knowledge you learned because you type the problem into a calculator and get the answer much quicker. Your knowledge turned to simplicity via the calculator.

Project management has similar principles. You work in the field to find out the technical side of the industry. You take pencil to paper to estimate costs and durations. Your knowledge foundation is being built. Enter a project management program that takes your knowledge, compiles it, saves it, and puts it together in a matter of hours rather than days.

Your knowledge remains important, but the program simplifies it. Your ignorance may reignite trying to learn the new program and gain knowledge. This cycle of ignorance, knowledge, and simplicity should never end. You should strive to create as many loops as possible. Taking in information and cutting the fat simplifying your results to match your style.

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