Do you have a huge IT project challenge right now? A problem that is keeping you awake, maybe even a project that is failing, or at risk of slipping into a pathway to failure?
A couple of my PM friends would tell you … that’s excellent news!
Trust me, it’s true! You are about to unleash your most creative, innovative, and brilliant self!
It’s in our Project Management DNA! When we’re on the ropes, we come out fighting and often end up punching way above our weight! Problems, challenges, dilemmas, even apparent failure all inspire us to think at a higher level and come up with solutions that we would never have conceived had everything been plain sailing. I can’t wait to hear what innovative response is triggered by your current challenges.
It’s amazing how many great innovations, that we take for granted, were a response to a problem or a challenge. Just looking around where I’m sat writing this: I have Dropbox open on my laptop, which was a response to someone forgetting a flash drive; my wallet is on my desk with crisp banknotes fresh from the ATM, the ATM being a response by John Shepherd-Barron to the problem of forgetting to withdraw cash during banking hours (he was in the bath – he had a true eureka moment!!!); even the Dyson vacuum in the corner of my office was a response to the issue of a vacuum clogging and James Dyson having to bend down to pick things up.
PUT THE FRESHNESS BACK
The Dyson story is a great illustration. James freely admits that he had hated vacuum cleaners for a couple of decades. To be fair, the screeching noise that a traditional vacuum makes as it struggles is enough to drive anyone crazy but, if James Dyson had been able to whizz around the whole house singing the Shake n Vac song – then the cyclone vacuum cleaner might never have been invented.
With clean carpets James Dyson would have not been motivated to change things, his engineer’s mind wouldn’t have been mulling over solutions as he went about his business. You probably know the story, Dyson was at a timber yard and was watching the dust extraction system above all the machines, he noticed the wood shavings flying off the saws, getting sucked away up to the ceiling, but as the air escaped out of the chimney at the top – there was no dust! It was being held somewhere, and the machine sucking it up wasn’t clogging like his vacuum at home.
Now, if James Dyson had been living in a vacuum utopia, he might have just thought “cool machine” – but he wasn’t and he went home started applying the principle to vacuuming. He is now a multi-billionaire!
This is so often the case with IT Project Management, OK, not so much the multi-billionaire bit (unless you’re not telling me something!!!) – it tends to be when we are faced with a problem that we do our most creative thinking. Like Shake n Vac (*1), we need to put the freshness back into our thinking!
As with James Dyson, it was clogged pipelines (albeit talent pipelines) that inspired Stoneseed to create our innovative Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) resourcing model. We took our experiences of struggling to resource IT Projects, we remembered the solution we wished had existed and, well, we created it. It’s a model that has allowed numerous CIOs, PMs, and project teams to innovate and think beyond their usual go-to solutions.
A FEE NOT A FINE
My PM mate Malc says something like “Problems are the ticket price you pay for entry into the creative arena – the bigger the challenge, the greater the level of thinking you seem to unlock”. I am paraphrasing him, but I love this thought. Just like you’d expect to pay a greater admission fee to get the best view at a sport stadium or gig, Malc believes that the boldest and best solutions come following the biggest problems.
This certainly is true with some PMaaS clients. It’s very often a big challenge that prompts a rethink and a move away from the “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset. Repeat clients often tell us that without a previous huge problem, they wouldn’t have considered “as a Service” resources in the first place – and yet many go on to adapt the Stoneseed model into their resourcing strategy, proactively picking from our portfolio of services, as and when they need. A client might come to us, in their hour of need, for a project manager to cover sickness and return on future projects for a Business Analyst (via Business Analysis as a Service, BAaaS), or a client might seek out our advisory expertise to help adjust a failing project and then bolster future projects with a full Project Management Office (PMO).
Malc’s insistence on thinking of his problems (and their solutions) as a ‘fee and not a fine’ is his key to creating a positive solution space.
Sarah, among the most positive and optimistic souls that I’ve met in the IT project world, cheerfully hollers, “Course correction” when faced with such a repositioning.
Sarah has that quote, often attributed to Einstein, on her wall: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” I’m 99% certain Einstein didn’t say this exactly, bet he wished he did – he’d have made a fortune in T-shirt sales and meme royalties! The point stands though, the way you think about the problem – often is the problem.
It can be the most jarring of jolts, painful to go through, that stimulates the creativity that puts your project back on track, or often puts it on a better track. Repeatedly slamming into a metaphorical brick wall can be exhausting, it saps morale, our attitude towards the challenge and solution can make all the difference.