The Soul of a Project #21: Dealing with Imperfection!

by Gary Monti on July 31, 2012

Imperfection is a fact of life. How does a project manager address it? There is a Buddhist concept that just might help – Wabi-sabi. It is very common in Japanese design aesthetics. It is based on acceptance of transience and imperfection. Imagine a beautiful vase develops a crack. One could try and fix it and attempt to restore it to its original state. With wabi-sabi a more interesting approach can be taken.

Think of the crack being filled with gold. What impact would that have? Can you see how there would be the elements of the original design merging with the transformation that has taken place? In one way, there is a new vase. In another, the original is still there.

We can pull this over into personal development. We all have flaws. What would happen if we decided to do something with them, to transform them rather than trying to erase them? Character develops. This also applies to team building.

Leaving team members to resolve their conflicts can be a source of great, positive energy. There is a cost associated with it but the benefit is worth the price. What am I getting at? Think of two team members having conflict. One common way to “deal” with it is through avoidance, i.e., keep the team members apart. This is like putting a Band-Aid on the vase. It really doesn’t work and the environment worsens because the tail called avoidance starts wagging the dog called the project.

On the flip side, think of when people have stayed in the conflict and worked to understand themselves and develop a comprehensive work plan. Synergies appear. Are the team members perfect — no. Have they created a space where they can be more in touch with who they are and get more from the situation — yes!

There are some underpinnings to this process, the most important of which is the desire on each person’s part to explore and see if there is a way to work with others to create a more empathetic environment. It can be scary and, if there really is a crack that needs addressed, it probably should be. People do drop out of this process and suffering results. For those who stay with it, though, a door opens to greater growth and accomplishment. All that experience and wisdom is brought together in a new way to create a better team!

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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