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When you finished, feeling as though you could accomplish anything together, it was because you found your elephant together, not because you blindly followed some all-seeing leader. Some simple but counter-intuitive personal acts encourage the elephant to emerge. When you engage as if your perspective can see the whole elephant, you subtly undermine your ability to achieve coherence.

But embracing your own inevitable blindness helps coherence to emerge. Be clear about your own purpose for engaging. When you sacrifice yourself for your project's objective, you quietly undermine your own abilities to create a meaningful experience. It seems that until you are selfish enough to know what you want, you're never generous enough to help anyone else pursue what they want.

So finding a juicy personal purpose for your participation is an essential element of any coherent experience. The methods you devise for achieving your goal will most certainly fail. Yet if you are clear about your intentions, you can benevolently undermine the system you put in place so it can work. If you are unclear about your own intentions, you will follow blindly. Like a good soldier, you will pursue what you suspect won't work and create your own misery in the process.

Extending your trust is the price of sitting at the same table. If you treat others as untrustworthy, they quite naturally give you what you ask for. How can others prove themselves trustworthy if you don't first extend them your trust? Let go of how it's supposed to be.

Blind Men and the Elephant

You waste a lot of time defining roles and responsibilities—cordoning others into defendable spaces—when projects thrive instead in a network of community. Interact in surprising, indefinable ways to achieve the coherence your project requires. Staying in role merely imprisons your best, enthusiastic selves. Stop trying to motivate others. Help others find their project within the project instead, and motivation automatically takes care of itself. What better motivation than knowing that your assignment is the medium within which you are actively pursuing your own, juicy objective?

Even the most difficult work can be juicy when supported by this simple, often overlooked element. This wall can be understood as a project without an explicit purpose. I have no doubt such projects exist, but all the psychobabble is not necessary. Chartering is well understood and well documented in every project management process.

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Our own Project Delivery System introduction book has two chapters on chartering. Schmaltz states in this chapter the first of his personal experiences. He paints a conversation with a business mentor Larry that sets him on a path to enlightenment. A brief excursion into a discussion of cynics strikes home for me here as well. I work with some who make it their profession to be cynical about process improvement and the adaptation of new processes.

But simply stating this would send a more powerful message. Schmaltz uses anti-military examples such as Gallipoli and Antietam to explain the evils of adhering blindly to the commands from above.

Frequently bought together

This generalization of the absurdity of war on the scale of a single battle has little to do with the managing projects on a daily basis. I'm insensitive to his experience having served as a aviator in Vietnam, circa Schmaltz fails to acknowledge that subordination of personal goals for the benefit of the team is a powerful concept used in any business venture as well as combat situations.

Facing adversity as a team not only builds cohesion it also builds strength in individuals. I say these words from the experience of a naval aviator in Vietnam. Since it is here he sets a tone for further concepts — anti-hierarchy and anti-authority. At this point I gave up on Chapter 4 and moved on.

Restating the obvious if you ask me. The issues with planning are presented. He describes a series of difficulties.

Low power workstation, previous release of PM software, missing training, etc. All this seems contrived for a professional project manager to be dealing with late into the night. MIT Sloan has a seminar he might attend to see how its done. Where David paints a picture as a neurotic project manager, ill equipped to deal with the task at hand.


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The picture he paints is an interesting picture, but in the end David never seems to provide the solution to this contrived situation. Some of the stories were less powerful and some where just plain boring like the wandering of the project managers mind when making the plan -- story. The content was still valid, the writing was still funny, but What is covered in the chapters? Topics such as finding your own meaning within a project, doing planning together, trusting people first, building your own organization, being careful with metaphors and finally building coherence and purpose into a project.

Also traditional project management assumptions such as control and focus on the plans are criticized. When I started reading the book, I was positively surprised and thought that this was one of the best books I had read for some while. As I got further in the book, I got slightly disappointed. It was still good, but it didn't continue the promise I felt in the beginning. Also, reflecting afterwards, I don't think the book contained much new things though, the author already said that in the beginning Thus, I ended up with four instead of five stars.

This book is still highly recommended though! One person found this helpful 2 people found this helpful. The title refers to the familiar parable where a group of blind men all touch a different part of an elephant and each thinks the elephant is like something different than the others. One man touches the tail and thinks the elephant is like a rope, another touches the tusk and thinks the elephant is like a spear, and so on.

That is actually a common problem on large projects where different stakeholders can have vastly different visions of the project.

So, I bought this book hoping for some insight into solving these types of issues. As one reviewer noted, the book rambles around from subject to subject.

The Blind Men and the Elephant: Mastering Project Work

This book really belongs in the self-help section. It has very little to do with project management and the few somewhat useful observations can be applied to any situation, work or otherwise. None of this is exactly an earth-shattering revelation and, again, it has no relevance specific to project management. Along the way in this chapter, the author somehow manages to give his thoughts two pages worth on the trust relationship between Lucy and Charlie Brown. The whole book is like this with the author using the Blind Men theme to introduce each chapter and then talk about whatever he wanted to.

The author uses the spear as reference to being a soldier and then spends most of the chapter explaining how he avoided the draft in the s.

Throughout the book runs a consistent anti-establishment, corporations-are-idiots-and-will-kill-you theme. If you want insight into this book, just look at the Bibliography. Some of them are project-related, but many of them are about art, poetry, communication, building communities, etc. But, the attempt to at least try to codify a common body of knowledge is hardly ridiculous.

"The Blind Men and the Elephant" by John G. Saxe (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

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