Project management, like a lot of other things, is best explained through an example, and in this case a fable. One story that we can think of which rings true with project management principles and practices is The Blind Men and the Elephant by David Schmaltz. In the story, six blind men are asked to describe an elephant.
Each one comes up with a different description; one man feels its tail and calls it a rope, the other feels its trunk and calls it a branch, another feels its leg and calls it a pillar, and so on. What follows is a war of words wherein each of the blind men can only see their own point. Let’s see how project managers can apply this story in the context of project management.
Quick lessons for project managers
- Better productivity: No doubt, the project manager is the one who calls all the shots in a project, but including the team members in the decision can offer a more conducive environment for project success. The project manager can ask team members to offer inputs on how the project process can be tweaked for better productivity, by learning what working styles deliver the best results.
- Mitigate risks: Chance are that you are working with a focused result-oriented approach on your project. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but the project manager should also be able to step back and look at the bigger picture to gauge potential risk factors and curb/eliminate them at an early stage. This is where perspective and opinions of team members can help, as they may be able to offer perspective on situations that you may otherwise be unaware of, just as we saw in the case of the fable where the blind men did not pay attention to the bigger picture.
- Maintain coherence: Coherence is key while making business decisions. It is important that the decisions taken by the project manager are aligned with the corporate objectives as well as the stakeholder’s requirements; that is when you know that you are taking the right decision for your business. In the fable the blind men failed to strike the coherence between the different parts of the elephant. Had they done it, they would have been able to describe the elephant for it truly was.