A couple of weeks ago I was working in Houston with my long term friend and business associate Spencer Holmes. We were running a Project Leadership simulation with a group of senior consultants, including the Global Head of Consulting for a top notch company in their specialist field. We had a plan to put them through their paces with a simulation based delibrately in a world they don’t know, so we could concentrate on their behaviours rather than on the technical content. We had developed the simulation last year and piloted it with some of their team in the UK.
Spencer kicked the event off, and quickly had them listing out where their projects go wrong currently, and it soon became evident that there was not only a lot of meat on the bone, but also a real desire in the room to do something concrete and real to address the problems they had identified.
During the first break it took Spencer and I all of 30 seconds to agree that we needed to completely redesign the event, as there was a much greater opportunity to produce real change than we had originally envisaged. We decided to ditch the simulation and instead to have them run a real project over the two days designed to produce lasting change. When we had them all back in the room (these things take time with consultants – a bit like herding cats, I often think!) we put this to the group, who instantly agreed.
And away we went. By the end of the event we had a concrete result (a business proposal to introduce 4 initiatives which would make a lasting change to the way their business goes about running projects), real passion and energy and genuine commitment to make this work. The group became the project team, the sponsor was already committed as he had been part of the project initiation, and the ball had started rolling. Our original objectives were achieved and more, but using a completely different approach to what we had planned, and in essence we invented it as we went along.
The feedback was that it was absolutely the right thing to do, and that we got way more out of the event than we would have otherwise. I’d do the same again, every time. However, we took a huge risk. We ditched our plan, live and on air, with our event sponsor in the room, and when we started out we had little idea of where we might end up. Are we mad, or was it the right thing to do? A safer approach would have been to stick to the plan, log the issues identified and propose a way to address them at some later point. We’d have still got a result and some good learning, and wouldn’t have exposed ourselves as we did.
What would you have done? How often do you raise the stakes in your work, and risk exposing yourself in the interest of higher rewards? My conclusion is “not enough”, speaking for myself. Don’t we need more peope to do this more often if we are to make better use of the time and resources we have?
I often say that to find a Win/Win requires two things: Courage and Creativity. How often do you draw on those qualities in yourself?
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