It was dark through the office, hours after everyone else had gone home. Okay, pretty sure Greg was off in some even darker corner coding, but that didn’t count, he was one of those nocturnal breeds of coders. I was in my office busy denting my desk with my head. It hurt sure, but the pain was taking my mind off my larger pains.
Pivot or persevere, burn down charts, customer value over stakeholder value, story points, user stories, Intrinsic vs Extrinsic value, Stoos, agile, Lean. I was a project manager, I ran a PMO, I was darn good at what I did. Only what I did didn’t seem to be what was being done anymore. What happened to my carefully planned out planning cycle? Where did my Gantt chart go?
I guess I got that things were changing. I just didn’t have a clue how to get from where I was now. This was safe, this was comfortable, this was.
“Not as it should be.”
Sigh. You know the expression “a monkey on your back”? Well I had a Gorilla on my desk. He was usually leading me down the primrose path only to pummel me with my own errors. My conscience in the form of an 800 pound gorilla (imaginary).
“Hogarth, I already know I need to change. I just haven’t the bloodiest flipping clue how to get from where I am now to where I need to be.”
Hogarth smiled at me, his white canines glinting in the light of the desk lamp. “That part’s simple, you have to see the world not as it is. Instead see the world as it should be.”
I looked back at him, “Sure all and good. What if the world as it should be is big bad and scary? How am I supposed to lead my PMO into this new way? What can I do to make it easier for them?”
The inky black gorilla smiled again, “By showing courage and kindness“
“Another one of your trite aphorisms?” I muttered. “Who did you get that from, the Dali Lama?”
Hogarth shook his head as he snatched the banana from my fruit, “Nah, Cinderella told me that after her 20th wedding anniversary ball.” Pealing the fruit Hogarth looked wistfully at the ceiling, “Now she knew how to throw a party.”
“Wait” I held up my hands in confusion. “Cinderella is real?”
Hogarth gave me one of those painful, pitiful looks when I’ve said something grossly idiotic. “Imaginary gorilla, remember? She’s not real, but neither am I, so yes I can talk to her.”
“Oh, right, I knew that.”
Hogarth bite off half the banana and began talking, “So let me break this down for you into a really easy question.”
I looked at him. His easy questions usually required a lot of work for me. “Go on…”
“Do you want to be a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?”
Now with the Wizard of Oz? Oz, Lion, Courage… Oh…
How Will You Face the Changing Tide of Business?
Whether we like it or not, the face of business is changing. You don’t have to be using Agile or Lean or any of the recent trends in development/ project/ business transformations to be impacted. Because odds are pretty much a million to one that if you’re not transforming your business, one of your competitors is.
We can try and deny the changing tide. However that would be like trying to deny the actual tides (Cnut the Great Tried that, didn’t work). Business has been going through a constant change since it first began. From the Master/ Apprentice trades of the middle ages, to the early factories of the industrial age, to the martini fueled age of Mad Men, to Martin Friedman’s “Shareholder Value” and beyond. The simple fact is business will continue to change and evolve.
So we should give up trying to deny that it will and instead decide how we’re going to face it.
With “Courage and Kindness”: You find inspiration anywhere you look, so long as you are willing to open your eyes. I found that inspiration watching the live action version of Disney’s Cinderella (Mar 2015). These words were the mantra Ella’s dying mother gave to her and which the young maiden lived by even when her step-mother and sisters had subjugated her down to little more than a slave.
And that I believe is the secret to how managers are going to deal with the disruptions facing the business world.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. -Nelson Mandela.
It is absolutely okay to not be comfortable with change. To not be happy that your world has shifted.
Even to be scared of what it all means to you.
You just need to not let it keep you from acting. Fear will drive you into a dark cave from which you will just lash out at anyone who comes close. Grab a torch, get out of the cave and explore this new world.
Kindness: No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. – Aesop
Think back to your own time in school as a child. Odds are probably really high you had these two kinds of teachers.
Teacher A- Instructor: This teacher wasn’t a bad teacher, you just wouldn’t ever get warm from their smile. Business like to a fault, factual, direct. You learned from this teacher, but you were never inspired. You did the work, you got it done and you made fun of the teacher in the lunch room.
Teacher B- Mentor: This is the teacher who always had a smile. They told stories that turned out to teach you a lot about the subject. They were available and approachable outside of class. They were the teacher you went to when you had a problem.
The question is, which kind of the teachers above would you like to be as a manager? More important question, which kind do you think your employees want you to be?
And just remember, kindness is easy, kindness doesn’t cost much. A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. William Arthur Ward
Until next time, remember to keep some bananas handy for the Gorilla in the Room.