Don't let pig-headedness spoil a perfectly good idea

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“No it will be fine, just around the next corner! This map is ridiculous, we must be there by now…. stupid instructions!” How many times have I put my family through fruitless extra hours trapped in a car rammed with luggage with the added stress of a lost and bewildered and it has to be admitted - often quite cross driver! And all because the stubborn bloke at the wheel wouldn't stop and ask for directions…

I have a shrewd suspicion that my rather pig-headed approach to navigation might -on occasion- be also reflected in my work and I wonder whether in a moment of honest reflection you would admit to the same niggling admission. As project professionals we are paid to solve problems in the most efficient way possible for our sponsors, but this often turns into 'coming up with a new solution to every problem.'

An obscure verse in the Bible says 'there is nothing new under the sun' (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV)… and its true! Why oh why then do we maintain a stubbornly resistant pig-headedness to the re-use of perfectly good ideas.

I think that there are a number of different forces at work and that it might be thought provoking to rehearse three:

  • 'The Poker effect' - as the late Terry Pratchett wrote in Unseen Academicals, its a short step from 'Adopt, Adapt, Improve' to 'Steal, Use, and Look Innocent.' To create an atmosphere were lessons are shared and learned, we need to make sure that people are properly credited otherwise they won't share.
     
  • 'The Goldfish effect' - corporate and personal forgetfulness has the consistent repeatable effect of allowing the same mistakes to be made over and over again. Learning lessons is not something that can just happen by chance it needs to be systematically pursued both personally and corporately. How many of us keep a personal log of lessons as opposed to relying upon our (perfectly recalled) memories to not repeat the same errors?
     
  • 'Pig headedness' - that very human quality that even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary continues to maintain that we know best!

Ladies and gentlemen, the power is in our hands. How about a future in which we can avoid the pitfalls that others have had, at the same time helping others avoid our personal collection of bear traps? 

And finally… for heavens sake if there is an established well worn methodology for a problem we need to solve – let's use it!

Just a thought!
 

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Posted by Colin Parker on 23rd Feb 2016

About the Author

Colin has been a project manager since 1997 and a member of the APM since 2004. Before going freelance in 2007 he fulfilled a number of roles, including project manager, service manager and operations manager for a software house. Since then he has been busy working for a number of large clients including Thames Water, Veolia Water, Vennsys and Babcock. His work generally includes a mixture of IT and business change with a recent focus on large contract transition management in the water utility sector. Recent projects have included an IT infrastructure transition, waste contractor business transition and an ERP selection project. Colin is a member of the APM Programme Management SIG Committee: www.apm.org.uk/group/apm-programme-management-specific-interest-group. Colin on LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/pub/colin-parker/1/b92/216/

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