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A Story Every Project Manager Must Read

Sogeti Labs
August 03, 2017

Here’s a story every consultant or project manager must read.

Somewhere in Africa, there is a tribe called ‘the Javias’ who are working very hard to keep their tribe alive. They have a very clear structure and each member has his own task. We got the head of the tribe leading and guiding the tribe through the days and into the future, we have the magicians wizarding with all sorts of potions and spells, the hunters gathering the food and animals needed to survive and the people living the daily life. Each sub-group has its own chosen master leading the group and reaching their objectives, set by the team itself.  Bi-weekly the whole tribe gathers together and they inform each other on what is going on, what is happening and each team asks the tribe to give feedback on their actions and results. The cooks show their new recipes and the hunters show their caught animals. The magicians’ show how the gods feel and predict the future and the tribe leader listens to it all and thinks further ahead.

Then, a couple of kilometers away there is another tribe, called ‘the Medijos’. This tribe is structured differently. They are very large and consist of several groups. There is not just one leader, but several with a strict, though disputed, hierarchy. Each responsible for their own area of expertise. There are also magicians, hunters and working people. These normally do not cooperate together. When the cooks want something from the hunters, the lead-cook asks the lead-hunter. Problems are solved within the own group and basically, the magicians, hunters, cooks and cleaners do not know what the others are doing. Four times a year they come together to celebrate and they show their successes to the other groups.

This Medijos have a lot of expertise in hunting and cooking. The tribe-leader of the Javias is looking ahead of the future and notices he could use the expertise of the Medijos, especially when it comes to hunting. So he contacts them and both leaders agree that they should work together.

As decided a group of Medijo-hunters come to the Javias and set-up camp in the middle of the village and start to adjust their way of hunting to the surroundings of the Javias. They explore, talk to the leader of the Medijos (only the leader) and start to dictate changes to the Javias. They ignore the Javia-hunters. After a couple of months, the protests of the Javia’s became too high and the cooperation was dissolved and the Medijos returned empty-handed and with a broken relationship with the Javias.

Now I exaggerated a little bit, but it actually describes a combination of quite a few situations I have been in the last couple of years. IT (or IoT) is still often considered as being a techy-hobby; a techy-side thing that does not have to do so much with the core businesses, or can be accomplished outside the organization or business unit itself.  I strongly believe that is one of the main reasons why many change-projects and IT projects end before succeeding. Nowadays bringing a new I(o)T solutions to an organization/business unit/department means a change for the people. With all the resistance, distrust, suspicion and hope that is common for human beings.

Treat a new I(o)T solutions in the same way and you’ll be more successful. Find out how the other organization/unit/department works. What are their habits? How is their decision making? Do they drink coffee together each morning 8 AM sharp? Then join and listen to what is going on. Earn their trust and respect. Not just by your technical expertise, but also by showing them your respect. I don’t mean you should become one of them, but learn their habits, worries, joys and then you can change what’s needed.  It will make the start of a project a little longer, but it will pay back in the end.

*Disclaimer 1: Inspiration came from the book: De Corporate Tribe by Danielle Braun Jitske Kramer  A must read for any consultant, project manager, and strategic advisor in my opinion.

** Disclaimer 2: the names of the tribes are picked completely randomly. Any resemblance to any tribe, group, or company is purely coincidental

About the author

SogetiLabs gathers distinguished technology leaders from around the Sogeti world. It is an initiative explaining not how IT works, but what IT means for business.


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