Friday, 21 June 2013

Never confuse efficiency with a liver complaint

Having a 3 year old and a 10 month old means that I end up watching a lot of children's television. No not bad parenting (well not that bad), but we do live in the 21st century and the TV is a great baby sitter and central to the living room.

It does however have its advantages; one being the guise of "looking after the kids", being able to watch all your own childhood favourites. From Tron, Toy Story, the Goonies, Dumbo, and other Disney classics, to The Wizard of Oz, and Mary Poppins. Like most 3 year olds my daughter is obsessed with a movie for about a week, then on to the next one. Well a few weeks back, Mary Poppins was the flavour of the week (think it actually lasted two weeks!), and in that time I ended up watching it a few times - my attention span is much longer than hers so I watched it a lot more than she did! Within the movie there are a few great management and project managements dos and don'ts, here are some of my favs.

1. Never confuse efficiency with a liver complaint 

In this scene Mr Banks and his wife are talking about previous nannies and why they have left.

Mr. Banks: My dear, never confuse efficiency with a liver complaint.

This to me, says listen to what your team is saying, and what they are not saying. If your team is complaining about something - is it efficiency or liver spots? If they aren't complaining about something - who are they complaining too! Undoubtedly there is something to "have a little whinge" about - why aren't they telling you about it! What is this doing to your reputation and the rep of your team?

2. A spoon full of sugar

Bert, the chimney sweep, sings this:

Bert:  A spoon full of sugar, that is, all it takes,
        it changes bread and water into tea and cakes
        A spoon full of sugar goes a long long way,
        have yourself a healthy helping everyday

Bet you were thinking it was the other "spoon full of sugar" lyrics right! This shows us that what we are expecting is not always what we get, so open your eyes, your ears and mouth, cause sometimes its up to you to take the sugar and, more importantly, the medicine.

3. 6:02 pm

This is the scene when Mr Banks arrives home from work:

Mr Banks: I run my home precisely on schedule.
               At 6:01, I march through my door.
               My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due at 6:02.
               Consistent is the life I lead!

For me, this is two lessons wrapped in one. The first is about work life balance. If you have kids especially, getting home in time to spend some quality time with them before bed is important for their growth and your state of mind. But, even those without kids need balance and long hours at the office is not the way to achieve. In my experience long hours mean lots of unproductive time either its the reason for the long hours now, or worse.

The second is about consistency. Not many of us enjoy change, but unfortunately, it is inevitable. So be prepared for it, embrace it, and try your best to move on.

4.  Winifred, please don't be emotional.

In this scene Mr Banks is talking to his wife.

Mr. Banks: Winifred, please don't be emotional.

I'm not one for emotions.

I was going to leave it there but, as with change, emotions are inevitable also. And especially as a man, I must make an effort to understand emotions and realize that peoples feelings (yuck) are important - especially within a team environment.

5. Go fly a kite

When Mr Banks realizes that there is more to life than work and money, he goes to fly a kite with his kids.

Mr Banks:  With tuppence for paper and string
                you can have your own set of wings,
                with your feet on the ground
                you're a bird in flight,
                with your fist holding tight
                to the string of your kite.

Go fly a kite - could be seen as an insult, so be careful how you pitch this one :)

Personally, I see it as a call for innovation. Firstly, the kids have to "invent", and "create", their kites. Then they "imagine" they are like a bird. All sounds pretty much like innovation to me. The key part here is to remember to be grounded (with your first holding tight) - that is remember that innovation within a business must reflect the goals of the business (See my previous post on FedEx day)

6. I never explain anything.

This is a scene between Mark and Mr Banks.

Mr. Banks: Just a moment, Mary Poppins. What is the meaning of this outrage?
Mary Poppins: I beg your pardon?
Mr. Banks: Will you be good enough to explain all this?
Mary Poppins: First of all, I would like to make one thing quite clear.
Mr. Banks: Yes?
Mary Poppins: I never explain anything.

This is one is a don't rather than a do. If you have magical powers and can jump in to chalk drawings and fly using your umbrella, good for you, the rest of us probably have to explain ourselves once in a while. So be careful. Take notes. Record. Don't be the FBI, but make sure that when a decision that needs to be made is made by the right person and it is recorded that they did so.

So that is it. Watch Mary Poppins again, it's a classic. Let me know other movies that you think have a hidden PM undertone and I'll review them too!

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