Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

humility courage discipline“What do I do when overwhelmed and projects pull me in several directions?” That is a common question. The short answer is, “Practice humility, courage, and discipline.”

Humility is simply appreciating where the boundary is between what I can do and what I can’t do. When on the “can” side get to work focusing on success. When on the “can’t” side see if help is available within the time frame required. If that help isn’t available then it is time to either cut scope or extend the schedule. Another way to state humility is, “I have a place in the universe; it just isn’t at the center.”

Courage is risking action (or being still) when there are no guarantees the desired outcome will be achieved. This doesn’t mean the outcome can’t be achieved. Rather, it is about breaking into new territory and getting away from “same-old, same-old” behavior. Courage can also mean taking action when there are insufficient resources and attempting to get political movement by pushing on power brokers.

For example, risking building a prototype of a product you just KNOW the client will want and doing this BEFORE there is any commitment. “Taking a calculated risk,” might be another way to describe the exercise of courage. Keep in mind; this is different than being foolhardy.  When someone is foolhardy they throw caution to the wind. With foolhardy, think of the firm with no depth that mastered PowerPoint and then was at a loss as to what to do once they win the contract.

Discipline is what brings it all together. There are two ways to define discipline and both are relevant. The first definition is: know your area of expertise and how best to apply it. Practice, practice, practice.

The second definition ties back into humility. You must be able to maintain a sharp focus and broad view simultaneously. Imagine you are a surgeon and want to save the patient. The decision as to whether or not to operate goes beyond your ability with the surgical techniques. It is critical to consider whether or not the patient might die while under anesthetic.

This all adds up to wisdom, the ability to find a balance point among all the principles when the rules are either absent or fail to point in a clear direction. There’s an old saying that sums the challenge of the situation well, “Success comes from experience which comes from failure.” There are no guarantees but without trying you’ll never know. Remember to breathe and take a calculated risk.

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
Share

The last blog focused on pushing through the Peter Principle by building interdependence. The power to move the project forward radiates from this interdependence, which includes power being shared by key stakeholders.

That interdependence has a very short half-life. So, the obvious question is, “How is it kept alive and encouraged to grow?” The answer lies within the story. The story is what binds people together to work as a team and move the project forward. There are a few things to consider when generating and disseminating the story.

  • Honesty. This is foremost. The moment the team senses they are being played the project fragments. Honesty requires being open and vulnerable regarding the consequences associated with the project including big payoffs that some might get. Not that they have to have every detail. They just need to be included as to the consequences. If the team is put on a “need-to-know” basis the members can feel diminished and it puts the interdependent bond at risk.
  • Discipline. Emerging from the Peter Principle typically has a lot of positive energy but there also are few rules present that work. New rules need generated or the old ones need modified.  You must be able to deal with the ambiguities of the situation and rely on core principles in pushing through to create a new gestalt as to how the team will work and the project will move forward.
  • Energy. With the old rules sitting in a jumbled mess the team instinctively will look for leadership as to what to do next. Here is where a big challenge is present. You must substitute yourself for the policies and procedures that fell apart in order to hold the team together. This can be sustained only so long. A plan is needed.
  • Delegate.  You can’t do it alone. Having key people willing to pick of some piece of the power and hammer out new rules/guidelines/etc. will go a long way towards re-establishing order, building the plan, and lowering the demands on your personal energy. It’s impossible to stress too much the need for a critical mass of people who can commit to something bigger than themselves. Falling short of this critical mass by even one person can cause the situation to implode.
  • Clean House. This is a corollary to delegation. Those who are creating difficulties need to either turn around or be removed from the team. This may seem a bit harsh. It simply is the reality of the situation. I’ve worked on projects and organizational changes where inability to get rid of a key gossipmonger torpedoed the changes.
  • Know where you are going. All of the above comes together to support your moving towards the end goal. Know what it is and state it clearly.

By doing the above the story will unfold from within you. You’ll find it spontaneously arises and you will instinctively know when to pause and reflect, talk with others, or push forward. This may sounds crazy but you will become the story. Think of El Cid. The myth, the story overtook him to the extent it was bigger than his own death. (Not that you want to have your career die!) What works best is having the aura of the project’s story radiate from you. This sounds corny but it isn’t. You know it is happening when people take your lead, when they listen to you in meetings and suggest ways to achieve goals, when the team looks forward to the meeting, when the milestones begin to be met.

Who knows? Maybe someone will write an epic poem about you, too!

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
Share

Fantasy vs. reality during project execution can be a major concern for the project manager and the team. “No good deed goes unpunished” might be the project motto. This seems rather dark but it is a common project reality. Assuming everyone has the best of intentions how could this happen? It can be summed in a word, “disconnect.” What is maddening is how this disconnect can be subtle and imperceptible, being spread out across the entire organization rather than focused at one location.

The Truth(s)

One would assume with intelligent, disciplined, competent people from top to bottom that harmony would be the order of the day. So, what happens? It has to do with the “truth.”

Truth is anything but an isolated, stand-alone reality. Truth is always embedded in a belief system. Belief systems are shaped by experience. As one travels through the various levels of hierarchy and across disciplines, experiences shift and the truth is in tow.

Imagine people at different altitudes looking at the project through a tube with a lens at the end, a lens that changes with their stakeholder position. Everyone gets the same light radiating from the same project but the truth varies from person-to-person. The relief effort in Haiti is a good example.

Suffering continues in Haiti. The project goal is frustrated. A year after the hurricane billions of dollars contributed to help the Haitians languish. While project managers are frustrated and impotent, those higher up feel they are being quite responsible by insisting criteria be met before funds are released.

The Solutions(s)

Is someone wrong? A better question is, “Why the disconnect?” Staying with international aid, project managers who have resources available may be in a situation where achieving their immediate goal of providing relief may require negotiating locally in a manner that goes against the grain of stated strategic political policies and procedures.

Aircraft maintenance is another example. A mechanic in the field can be faced with a problem not defined in the policies and procedures yet they need to get the airplane functioning and back in service. All this needing to be done with the tools and resources available.

What can develop are two sets of books, one set is informal and spread throughout the maintenance community and the other is the official set used to show compliance with stated methodologies. There is the danger of punishment if caught. Why? It goes against the “truth” as seen by those with power working at a distance (in all its meanings). There’s nothing unusual about this. Readers working in other professions probably have similar stories.

The Challenge

One of the project manager’s jobs is working the interfaces between all those truth systems and doing so in a way their integrity remains intact. It is a classic case of situational leadership. In the next blog we will look at other examples of what can happen when there is insistence from senior management that stated methods and policies and procedures be followed.

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
Share

Flexible Focus #32: Folding the Square

by William Reed on December 16, 2010

Outside of the Box, or Inside the Square?

What you see in the illustration are two entirely different ways of approaching a square.

The problem of how to connect the nine dots with only four lines, without taking pen from the paper, can only be solved as shown here by going out of the square. The dots only appear to create a box, and if you see it that way, you cannot solve the problem.

The nine dots problem is commonly used to illustrate the process of lateral thinking, or thinking outside the box, and is a common approach to creativity. It involves changing your perspective and freeing yourself from self-imposed or apparent limitations. The problem is, once you know the solution to the problem, there is not much more that you can do with it. The nine dots problem has become a cliché of creativity.

By contrast, the Japanese art of paper folding, know as Origami, is the art of folding the square into an astonishing variety of distinct shapes, animals, geometric figures, and objects of all sorts. All done by folding and refolding a single square sheet of paper, without any scissor cuts. It is far more challenging than the nine dot problem, because it involves manual dexterity as well as visualization. On the other hand, although someone creates the original origami shapes, for the most part people practice the art by following instructions. What is remarkable is the degree of flexible focus that was needed to come up with idea of folding paper in this way in the first place.

The Art of Folding

The art of folding is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, and is an essential aspect of the Japanese sense of creativity and aesthetics. Japanese have refined the art of folding not only paper and clothing, but furniture, bicycles, eyeglasses, even joints of the human body in the martial arts. You can see numerous examples of folding the square in Japanese culture in a video slide show I produced with Prezi software.

I recently made a blog post on my presentation in October for the international conference of the Japan Creativity Society, at which I presented a paper which you can download, Folding the Square: The Geometry of Japanese Creativity. To accompany this, you can also download a Mandala Chart called GEOMETRY OF JAPANESE CREATIVITY for taking notes on key words and ideas in the thesis.

Why is folding the square significant for creativity? The reason is that, not only does it result in a host of useful and practical solutions to problems and products, but it also illustrates how many possibilities open up when we work within a certain set of limitations. The discipline of working within a set of rules and restrictions can sometimes set you free to discover new levels of flexibility and finesse.

This is not always the case, or every person working in a cubicle would be flexible and creative. More often than not, restrictions can bind and tether your imagination, particularly when imposed from the outside. It is when you seek to work out solutions inside the square of your own initiative through self-discipline, that creativity comes into play.

The unity of discipline and spontaneity

The artist who casts all rules aside in search of freedom of expression may find that he is still trapped in the limited range of his own experience and habit. One of the things that is consistent and intriguing about the traditional Japanese arts is that they are exceedingly difficult in the beginning. The brush in calligraphy is soft and disobedient, defying your efforts to control it. In the beginning it is difficult to even produce a sound on the Shakuhachi, or bamboo flute. Aikido is challenging to the beginner, who finds finesse frustrating, and force useless.

Each of the traditional arts follows a process know as Shu-Ha-Ri (守破離), roughly translated as follow, breakaway, depart. It is this process which connects discipline and spontaneity. Students are expected to begin by repeating copying standard master patterns until they become second nature. These are difficult to master, and much of the discipline is in recovering a beginners mind which allows you to engage with the materials and artistic challenges in a fresh and curious manner.

However, simply making skillful copies is not considered to be anywhere near the level of mastery. This is why in the martial arts, the first level of black belt (shodan) is considered to be merely the first step. Real development in the art starts after you learn the basic vocabulary and steps.

First you learn to follow skillfully, then you learn to breakaway, that is deal with variations and adaptations of the basic forms. Eventually you depart from all forms and learn how to be spontaneous in your expression. Though this process is formalized in the Japanese approach, in fact it is how all artists and musicians progress. Picasso did not start out creating free and original shapes, but rather in making remarkably realistic drawings. Many art students want to skip this stage of disciplined learning, and become an overnight Picasso. It cannot be done.

The Mandala Chart can facilitate the process of connecting discipline and spontaneity through flexible focus. It takes you away from polarity thinking, and helps you see one in terms of the other. Study the Japanese approach to creativity in folding the square, and it will open new horizons for you in the creative process!

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
Share

I feel a fraud writing on self-discipline. I started this post over 6 weeks ago. Yet, here I am—just days before deadline–finally coming back to push through the hard work of completing it and making it readable.

I am definitely not a guru or master of self-discipline. More times than not, I am a master of procrastination. I am brilliant at finding important interruptions to fill my time when I have a big project sitting there.

But, I’m forced to address these issues because of the fundamental truth: A small step completed is a million times better than a big plan thought about. Seth Godin says that “Professionals ship”. Ship means they finish what they start. There are many, many people who are like bullfrogs in a china shop – they make lots of noise, but no actual action (or breakage) happens.

So, I’m dedicating this Topic to exploring ways we can all ship more often?  A little over a year ago I wrote my most-read-ever post – 17 Habits for a fulfilling life – and Self-Discipline was habit #1.

What would my parents say?

My parents would laugh to see me, Conor, writing on self-discipline! Alter all, they observed my high-school years where they watched me avoid studying, avoid starting essays, leaving homework to the last possible minute (and often somewhat later).

Likewise, my housemates from my time at university would be falling off their chairs laughing if you were to point them to this post.

Why I’m taking a fresh look at self-discipline

I began writing seriously about 2 years ago. This has led me to have a deep interest in why I am highly productive in some periods and totally useless during other periods. Through these musings, my hope is that some day those useless periods will be smashed to smithereens and I will become a “proper writer”.

I am not going to write a post today that says that you must become totally disciplined in order to be successful. There are some tricks, there is some psychology, there is a lot of pushing through and keeping working when things don’t look so easy.

What would Nike say?

I have spent a lot of time during the past few months interviewing high performance athletes. My goal was to understand their motivations, how they train, how they prepare mentally, and how they face anxiety.

In many cases these successful athletes have an ability to focus on the one next step and, in the words of Nike, Just do it!

Josef Ajram, Spain’s top endurance athlete, tells himself “I will run another 15 minutes. Come on. Anyone can run another 15 minutes.”

In Josef Ajram’s words, he has completed the Marathon de Sables – 243km across the Sahara desert in 6 days – by only ever allowing himself to think about the next 15 minutes!

The Pomodor Technique

Today, when I write, I use an execution tool called The Pomodoro Technique.

This was created by Italian student Francesco Cirillo during the time that he was writing his university thesis. He was having a hard time getting started.

One day, he went to his mother’s kitchen where he found a cooking timer in the shape of a tomato – pomodoro in italian. He took the pomodoro timer back to his desk and thought “right, I am going to set this to 20 minutes and I will keep writing until the timer finishes”.

He began to use this execution tool on a daily basis and quickly got on top of the thesis he had to write. He has documented the full method and provides tools at the Pomodoro technique home page.

So, set a timer and focus on just taking one small step.

Why do we procrastinate?

Why do we sabotage ourselves even when we know what we should do to move towards our goal? I read a great post by Leo Baubata of Zen Habits a couple of months ago where he talked of 4 reasons why we procrastinate:

  1. It provides Instant Gratification – It feels better right now
  2. It avoids Fear – If I do it wrong what will they say? What will they think of me? If I don’t act then I avoid the risk of making a mistake.
  3. It has no immediate negative consequencesJim Rohn says “We all have the choice of one of two great pains in the world – the pain of regret or the pain of discipline”. The pain of discipline is here and now. The pain of regret comes later… but is by far the worse pain.
  4. I overestimate my future self – I have some inner belief that I will be smarter, better, faster in the future. This is a strong belief. The work that is hard today must somehow be easier for the better future me? But, what if’s not? I am deceiving myself.

Good and Bad Procrastination.

There is good and bad procrastination. Putting off going to the supermarket so that I can finish this article because I am on a roll would be good procrastination; checking my email because I am hitting a wall in my writing of this article would be bad procrastination.

Many highly productive people manage to succeed by procrastinating on important work when avoiding unimportant tasks. My desk here is quite a mess. I should tidy it, but writing this article is my way of procrastinating away from cleaning up.

Building Your Support Community

Which co-workers and friends want to see you succeed? Who are the people in your life who like to see you make progress on the things that are important to you? If you want to get big things done, you must spend time with others who are on this journey and support your journey.

Self-discipline grows with use

Self-discipline, like muscle, grows with use. Keep one promise, the next one will be is easier. Run tonight, tomorrow easier. Write now, tomorrow easier.

The other side of the coin, however, is that without use, discipline shrinks! No run today, harder tomorrow. No writing today, harder tomorrow.

How can you develop your self-discipline?

Here are some simple “first steps” you might want to try after reading this article:

  • Try the Pomodoro technique. Do 10 minutes on something important right now.
  • Take time each morning to reflect on what is important
  • Avoid “the watercooler gang” – the groups in our offices and schools who are happily unproductive and enjoy helping others take their place in the group. Make a list of 2-3 people who support you when you talk of your progress in something important in your life.
  • Never underestimate the role of practice and persistence and hard work in success. The “3 steps to untold riches programs” don’t work. The “flat tummy in 1 week while watching TV plan” doesn’t work. There are no shortcuts. Don’t waste time looking.
  • Inspiration tends to come when you have trudged through 40 minutes of painful effort and have not allowed yourself to check email, make a coffee, eat chocolate, check IM… You have to push through to get to inspiration.

Summary (or how to change the world…  one step at a time)

The only people who can change the world are those that want to. Many don’t want to. Some want to, but don’t accept the discipline of hard work. Anything you want will never be as hard as you imagine it will be! So, get started and push on through. Do it “just because.” Even if it is a failure as a product, it will teach you. You will come out stronger.

In my next post we will look at how to take Imagination, Ambition, Learning and Self-Discipline and make the journey easier with each day. A friend of mine, Verne Harnish says: “Routine sets you free.” I welcome your comments, retweets and general link-love!

Conor NeillConor Neill is the professor of Leadership Communication at IESE Business School in Barcelona and an entrepreneur who has founded four companies. Years ago, he was a manager in the Human Performance consulting practice of Accenture. He loves rugby, mountain climbing and will run a marathon next march. Conor frequently blogs at conorneill.com and tweets as cuchullainn
Share

Can we avert failures in our life?

by Vijay Peduru on May 3, 2010

All of us want to start a business or change a career and we keep postponing it.
If we analyze deeply, we postpone because we need to learn new habits and skills and accumulating these habits and skills seems harder. We keep saying to ourselves that we will learn these skills once we achieve the position or once we start the business.  Days, months and years pass by and we still do not reach where we want to reach. What can we do to stop this drift? We can start in baby steps right this moment ( ok,.you can wait till you finish reading this post!)  and keep growing gradually..
The following quotes from Jim Rohn summarize this very well.
Quote #1

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight”
All too often, we are worried why we are not reaching our goals (our destinations), it is just because we are travelling on the wrong road (habits). To reach our destinations, we need to change the direction and we will almost surely reach our destinations.
Quote #2

“Failure is nothing more than a few errors in judgment repeated every day”.
For example, drinking an “obesity causing High fructose corn syrup filled” cola daily will cause health problems in later part of our lives. We won’t know it now, but it will haunt us in the later part of our lives. The same is true with starting a business – Not reading books or actively finding a mentor now will haunt us later on because the consequences of not reading books or actively finding a mentor NOW, will show up LATER; perhaps in the form of us being unable in starting the business.
Fortunately we can reverse our direction now to reach our destinations.
Quote #3

“Success is a few simple disciplines practiced every day”.
For example: Learning to enjoy Orange juice instead of cola daily, actively learning from successful entrepreneurs daily are all examples of being directed with discipline.

So, if we take any area(health, money, joy)  in our life, we need to start accumulating new habits and skills now. We can start with baby steps and keep moving. A few baby steps are:

  • Health: We can start doing yoga or exercise joyfully ten minutes a day starting today
  • Money : We can start reading books for thirty minutes every day by entrepreneurs on how to serve people and make money starting today.
  • Joy:  We can read spiritual or books on the wisdom of leading a joyful life for 10 minutes a day to learn how to be joyful starting today.

Averting failures, however unattainable and insurmountable it might sounds, is a simple art of going in the right direction, in a disciplined manner.

Vijay Peduru is an entrepreneur in the bay area and is the co-founder of a bootstrapped startup. His interests are bootstrapping, leadership and spirituality.
Share