Project Management And The Fish Pond

For those who missed it: the world is changing. We are global, diverse and confused. This is not your grandfather’s earth. It is not even your daddy’s earth. Economic powers are shifting; you are now working with people from all over the globe. With different backgrounds, different beliefs, different economic and social possibilities. If someone brakes wind in Toronto, you can smell it in Bangladesh. Everything effects everything. Fast and in ways we have no clue about.

Photography by Jelene.

The world is changing and we are clueless.

In projects and business in general you need to keep your head clear. You need some model in your mind to cope with these changes, to lead your company or team through to ever changing landscape.

We, as humans, gave it our best shot. We really put our mind to it. We, the professionals, came with the grand solution to manage complexity.

Our best shot seems to be an idea from the first half of the last century. We operate like a machine!

Wow, what a great concept Scientific Management has brought us!

Every little man performs a single repeatable task.

The more intelligent ones look into the future and exactly predict what will happen. They will create a plan accordingly. You measure the performance of the little man, and beat the crap out of him when he isn’t in line with The Plan.

Yeah. That will work.

Guess what? The “bright” guy has no clue about what the future will look like.

All the little people stay little, and just do mindlessly what is instructed. “You want us to jump of the cliff? Here we go!”

And after being beaten several times, the little man just reports what the smart guy wants to hear.

If anyone wants to know why the dinosaurs got extinct? That was just around the time they invented middle management. Just about the time they got the idea they could predict the future.

The world is too complex for us to figure out. Cause and effect are not directly visible. Oh well, of course everything is caused by the greenhouse effect. Sure.

And if we try to reason about the world around us, we simplify our data. Otherwise we cannot store it in our tiny head. We meet one smiling Chinese guy, and all of a sudden every Asian is a happy little person. We shake one hand and draw conclusions for an entire continent.

You know what? We’re clueless!

But we don’t have to be. Basically what you need is to have clear and open mind, be prepared and always look around you, learning. These are the lessons we learned from a fish pond.

Together with dr Ali Anani, I am taking on the challenge of providing some structure and some answers for management practitioners. To help you create some new and exciting ways to look at the world and business situations, we introduce the Fish Pond Metaphor. We opt to go for the fish pond as a metaphor for the new world in which organizations (and projects) operate.

The Fish Pond Metaphor is not one coherent picture of a particular pond. It is merely a collection of narratives and analogies centered around a common theme: the fish pond.

This week I’ll give you three points how thinking about a bucket of water with fish might help you out:

1. Training the flexible brain
2. Importance of preplanning
3. Fast observation of the environment

Bas de Baar, blogging as “The Project Shrink“, is taking his message to the International Project Management community with a vengeance: “Projects Are About Humans. Now Deal With That!”

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1 thought on “Project Management And The Fish Pond”

  1. I travel around the world working with businesses who are hip-deep in the rapid changes of the 21st century and I totally agree! Most of us humans couldn’t find a clue if it were clue mating season and we were covered head to toe in clue pheromones! Thanks for your thought-provoking blog. – Kimberly Wiefling, Author, Scrappy Project Management

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