Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Project Martial Arts And Mind Vices

The legendary Bruce Lee was trained in many martial arts (Wu Tai Chi Chuan (aka Ng-ga) and Jing Mo Tam Tui, Choy Li Fut, Western Boxing, Épée fencing, Judo, Praying Mantis Kung-fu, Hsing-I, and Jujitsu), this got me thinking...should Project Managers also be trained in many PM arts or is it better to be master of one?

Lee's phenomenal fitness allowed him to perform numerous exceptional physical feats, for example he could snatch a dime off a person's open palm before they could close it, and leave a penny behind. I've seen Project Managers try a similar technique with reports and requirements :)

Of course, Six Sigma (originally developed by Motorola in 1986), took the martial arts theme a bit further than most with knowledge levels described as "Master Black Belts", "Black Belts", "Green Belts".

Bruce Lee was considered a master in most, if not all, of the arts he pursued, so the usual "Jack of all trades master of none" does not fit for him, but how often have you said this when reviewing a resume? Is it always fair?

Firstly, the expression, "Jack of all trades, master of none" can actually be seen as a good thing. Nowadays we often think of it in reference to a person that is competent with many skills but is not necessarily outstanding in any particular one. But, "the earliest recorded versions of the phrase do not contain the second part. Indeed they are broadly positive in tone. Such a Jack of all trades may be a master of integration, as such an individual knows enough from many learned trades and skills to be able to bring their disciplines together in a practical manner. This person is a generalist rather than a specialist. A person who is exceptional in many disciplines is known as a polymath or a "Renaissance man"; a typical example is Leonardo da Vinci. The phrase became increasingly cynical in connotation during the 20th century." (Wikipedia, 2013)

In fact it was often used like this: "Jack of all trades, master of none, Oft times better than a master of one".

Speaking of Six Sigma and Jacks, Jack Welch made Six Sigma famous in 1995, when he made it a central focus of his business strategy at General Electric. Jack Donaghy, the 30 Rock character based on Jack Welch, who once practiced martial arts under Chuck Norris, but subsequently had a falling out after he switched to another dojo, once said:

"Six sigma is the elite GE executive training course. To master just its basic concepts, one must brave a five day conference at a Sheraton. Six sigma says that a manager must understand every aspect of the business he or she oversees." (30 Rock)

But that isn't that funny, so he also said...

"I believe that when you have a problem, you talk it over with your priest, or your tailor or the mute elevator porter at your men's club, and you take that problem and crush it with your mind vice. But for lesser beings like curly-haired men and people who need glasses, therapy can help." (30 Rock)

My point, is study at as many different Project Management schools of thought as you can. They all have something to offer, and most have "get out of jail free" cards to let you tweak them to how you want to run your project, so pick and choose, just know the basics and don't skimp on the little things, cause if you loose the dime and get a penny, you will be in a world of Bruce Lee hurt.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, the more knowledge you can gain the better you are. If your not learning and going forward then you are going backwards.
    Anything you can do to deliver a succesful project.
    Also Curly hair is a sign of strength in some cultures not that I am being deffensive.