Do your projects really work in practice?
“Unfortunately, I keep running into or hearing about struggling ERP implementations and this is not specific to a particular ERP system. So, what is the first step most organizations get wrong? Answering this simple question requires knowing what the first step of any project is. The answer should be obvious. Surprisingly enough and despite all the knowledge, discussions and advice out there, there are a million different answers”.
I’ve read a statement above written by the CEO of one German implementation & consulting firm a few days ago.
It took my attention. And while I was considering this topic and browsing LinkedIn in the morning, I came across a short article that was written about how to correctly manage projects, product’s creation and building strong product brands. Shortly, it was summarizing the basic steps to be taken at the initial phase of every project.
All the formulas and rules for guaranteed success. Nothing against them. There is plenty of that stuff out there and it certainly has got its meaning and purpose. Books, courses, podcasts, education, methodologies, certifications, advice of experts etc. Without them, most of the projects would be nothing but chaos.
But do they work in practice? I mean really, honestly. I believe that’s an interesting question to ponder.
As I went through many projects over the years, I’ve observed that despite all available resources, techniques, methodologies and tools hardly any of them has been delivered according to the initial plan, timescale and budget. And if it was, then for the huge price of the quality delivered and/or wellbeing of people involved. Of course, the knowledge and experience of people involved can improve the overall success greatly, but probably won’t always make miracles.
As if there would be no project that runs precisely according to our plans, initial visions and of course our human desires and wishes.
So where could causality of the “struggles” from above originate? In our expectations and beliefs? Surely that might be an issue as they are often not aligned with reality. But is that all? I certainly don’t have any universal answer, but I can try to share my point of view.
For the beginning, I have to say that whenever I heard somebody talking about the project’s implementation, about founding a business, creating a product from scratch or just any topic in general, I hardly ever got a “big picture” of the vision. Usually, I heard about some parts or important domains with more or fewer details but somehow I was missing the whole idea. To me, it was either the core point which was missing or some important aspect, or the view at the project from the top perspective.
I ask myself the following question before any action is taken or even before any project is being considered: “Who or what am I? (What am I here to do? Why am I here? Or nowadays we would ask what my purpose is)”. Of course, the same applies to a company or project team. The real trap of this question however lies in its deeper understanding and that especially due to our current world viewpoint. In which the individual is considered to be an entity separated from the whole and where all the actions thus spread from the ancient instinct of individual survival. However when we consider the individual as an undetachable part of a much wider organism – be it a community, project team, nation or human race as a whole the same question obtains a very different meaning. It changes from asking “What do I want from the world?” to a more holistic “What the world wants from me?” In other words: “How can I best serve the whole?” In case of the business, project or a job position it asks “How can I best serve this customer?” But, and it’s a very important but, this question requires asking out of the position of what I am. Not out of what I think I am or what the expectations on me and my actions or behaviour in the world are. What, in the latter case, doesn’t necessarily mean to follow my customer’s wishes. In other words, it has to be asked from the viewpoint of the whole, not from the viewpoint of the separated individual or business entity.
In my experience, without being aware of the answer to this question – without having a connection to the fundamentals, I cannot be rooted clearly in my purpose! In regards to the client, to the project, to my colleagues or to the work itself. And in regards to myself in the first place…
To me, everything else spreads from there.
But are we aware of who or what we are? What are we to do here?
Perhaps that could be the reason why our projects crumble? That we are completely unaware of the fundamentals? That we have no or very vague connection to ourselves?
It reminded me of an article I wrote a few years ago. It’s called “The vicious circle of humanity (Life unfolds in 7-stages cycles)” and it applies to our personal lives as well as business or project management field. Because they are interconnected.
I believe the core message of the realization shared in the article is that life unfolds. Instead of our current understanding that we create it. Which means that it would be very difficult if possible to ever pin it down by some default set of beliefs, plans, structures, rules or methodologies. And should that be true, it might be useful to slowly acknowledge their limitations. The problem is not the plans, structures, rules or methodologies. The problem is our attachment to them. And the stress, conflict and lack of clarity and understanding stemming from those attachments.
It’s like in the IT industry for example. Where we have all the project management methodologies. Agile, Scrum, Lean, Kanban, Prince, PM BOK and many others. Each of them being applicable to specific types of projects with its own structures, deliverables and outcomes. But anyone involved in the field long enough would most likely agree that the real projects are usually unfolding somehow differently.
I am not an expert in the field and honestly, I have not found any “universal” solution or formula for success. Rather I see that each project, implementation, business or product is unique. Has got a unique path to success. And as such, it requires a completely unique approach. Without constantly trying to pin it down into some “universal structures” as we usually do. Even if in last years it is slowly changing in form of more flexible approaches like Agile, Scrum etc. It’s the same as applies to individual human beings – uniqueness needs to be honoured.
Being a part of the field for years, observing and seeing I began asking myself a simple question: “Is there any way, any pattern or a ‘methodology’ which would apply to all projects in general? Regardless of the industry, project size or type, resources involved, regardless of anything?”
The same way as I have asked this question, more or less unconsciously, I was then seeking for a pattern that would somehow meet these criteria. It took years to receive an answer. It came through a living insight about the 7-stages lifecycle pattern. Which confirms that this “methodology” applies to all of them! No exclusions. At least to me, this was a complete game-changer. Because if one understands this pattern profoundly, through a living experience, then he cannot lose the clarity for long even in the midst of the deepest crisis. And would always know the way out of the crisis, regardless of the nature of project one finds himself working at.
In times such as we are facing these days, it can be a great advantage.
Very briefly the pattern runs in 7 stages as follows (for more information please refer to the original article at https://jandubravcik.com/vicious-circle-humanity/):
|Year/Stage||The character of the year/stage topic and content of its unfolding|
|1||Unconscious unity and the following birth (a completely new experience, an experience of a different “world”)|
|2||The energy in motion (emotionally/energetically turbulent time accompanied by the unfolding of emotional charge)|
|3||Controlling (overpressure of emotions, feelings and consequent repression, sedation and denial)|
|4||Self-knowing process (self-reflection, self-observing, felt-perception, maintaining a distance from the object of observation)|
|5||Flow (uplift into a new dimension, widening of perspective, “re-birth” into a wider space)|
|6||Being (not-doing, following only what comes to us, merging with the object of observation – being one with life)|
|7||Death (resting, staying in the gap, transformation, end of the old cycle)|
To grasp this concept mentally, for the beginning, it would be very helpful if we recognized that all businesses, projects, jobs, relationships or scientific experiments – with their full spectrum of resources, techniques, methodologies and tools are simply structures. And by structures I mean tangible, physical forms for, on, with and around which we work and make all the “magic”. But if we get stuck, cling, frozen and blindly identified with the structures, we are missing their real purpose. Which is to bring us into the mystery of life. To the treasures of each project, business, company, professional or personal relationship hidden behind them. To bring us deeper into our inter-connectedness and aliveness. And to, potentially, sip a bit more from the depth of life. By the way, the human urge for identification belongs to the 3rd stage of the cycle.
Now, by saying all this, I’m not trying to contradict or discredit the practical approach at all. That certainly is of utter importance and involves a lot of work. What I have observed and then experienced is that in most cases, being completely unaware of it, we are ignoring the very first stage of each “project”. Its very potential! Which we are, sadly, at most trying to replace with our own ideas, plans and visions from behind the office tables. This would, of course, never work for long. Because it seems that “the basic setup” has been done long before the project started.
So what I’m suggesting is that at some point, we will have to connect both. The practical and the intangible. Hard approach with the soft approach. Masculine with the feminine. The left – logical mind approach with the right, receptive mind approach. But, and it’s important but, the receptive always has to come first. In the words of the poets: the heart always has to come first, before the mind is involved. Not vice versa, as it was until recently in humanity and which is currently crumbling as a paradigm all around us. We all can perceive the consequences nowadays, from which the main seems to be a division from life.
Within the perspective I am sharing, the 7-stages pattern represents the “river banks”, the boundaries of the space in which we deliver projects. But surely not the whole picture. There are other important components not mentioned in this article.
Nevertheless, for me, the answer to the question: “So, what is the first step most organizations get wrong?” is after all not so obvious but rather a bit more complex. Looking from a big picture, for me, it has several dimensions and it really starts with the first which is to acknowledge one’s position and the purpose in the world.
And so the answer to this question could easily be “What we get wrong is that we don’t see the big picture and thus we are focusing on small, specific areas of secondary importance – and ultimately ignoring the inherent potential, what leads us astray and into the struggle”.
To be continued…