What can be done to avoid making project management a beastly task for everyone in the organization? How does a project actually become a success story? We can get the answers to all these questions in David Schmaltz’s tale “The Blind Men and the Elephant”, which is a guide to understanding and managing project work. In the story, six blind men try to formulate a description of an elephant to meet the others’ satisfaction. And they all fail in their attempts. Each tried to assert the correctness and accuracy of their perspective, proving the rest wrong.
Such situations are faced almost every day at work and in all organizations managing projects. If you think about your previous project, it might have required the enthusiastic involvement of many team members, specializing in different areas of work. And there is a high probability that each tried to put forth his/her perspective while giving a blind eye to the others. This is exactly what happened in Schmaltz’s story and hence the reference to it.
Project manager and his team
The role of a project manager in any organization is to oversee certain key tasks that include planning, controlling, monitoring and executing. Essentially, he or she is accountable for the project’s success. The project manager must identify, track and solve various project issues and provide the stakeholders with all key facts. He/she must also be aware of all risks associated with the project and try looking for the ideal solutions. Along with his/her team, a project manager also takes care of budgeting, time management and scope management.
This story also reflects on how relations with the team and other organizational heads could be a primary factor leading to either outstanding success or dismal failure. If all project team members keep disregarding each other’s opinions and fail to work with an integrated and focused vision, a project cannot achieve its ultimate goal. The project manager needs to build trust among members so that they deliver things in the right way and at the right time.
Just like a project manager needs to build a healthy work culture, it is also vital to have good stakeholder relationships. This means identifying and taking care of their requirements and expectations.
So what is the significance of the elephant in the tale? The elephant is actually “coherence”, i.e. people agreeing about a common experience. When the project is completed, you feel it is something you accomplished together, as a team. The solutions were arrived at through cordial discussion and sharing of opinions, not by blindly following a leader who gives instructions.
When it comes to project management, it is all about listening to others’ point of view and respecting it, even if not necessarily agreeing to it.