Side Notes: Project minds

The Science of Planning

they can attack problems simultaneously and are relentless at reinvention

Recently, I caught up with some old notes from Professor Bullimore at Cambridge. There are well over 30 billion neurons in the human brain. These neurons are responsible for the interpretation of information from our known 5 senses. Neurons can also act independent of each other. Each neuron is a self-contained computer able to process well over 1.3 million bits of information. Neurons communicate with each other using an incredible network of nerve fibres. When we experience something pleasurable or painful, this information is stored in our nervous system. Neurons are the fastest, efficient and most powerful of any computational device on the face of the planet – and there are lots of them. Unlike present day computers, they can attack problems simultaneously and are relentless at reinvention. Every one of you possesses this extraordinary gift, and it can also be repossessed by others – especially project managers that want to tap into the unlimited power of their teams.

you could see the incredible results immediately

It would take a book or more to tell you how you can tap into the unlimited power of your teams – to do what you need them to do. Even then, those books would never be enough because experience is also required. Around the age of 5 or 6, I never knew how to speak horse, cow, sheep or dog. Yet I can tell you, with gestures, tone, bells, whistles, clicks and movements, communication with the farm animals was successful. This cannot be taught in schools. It takes practice, routine and consistency to generate this amazing communication. In the UK, there used to be TV shows about it – because you could see the incredible results immediately.  Our brains have the ability to change not only our own state of mind, but the mind states of those around us. This can be both immediate and over a course of time. There are only two highly significant states for a project manager to manage; pleasure and pain. Again, this will take time to explain. Therefore as an example, I use cufflinks on my projects to help retrieve information stored in my nervous systems and in those of my team. My red cufflinks mean we are in crisis mode (pain). My green ones mean everything is on track (pleasure).

 Orchestral Conductors use gestures to motivate musicians, Project managers can do the same

Our brains are susceptible to external influencers, such as non-verbal commands. Watch an orchestral concert. Is the Conductor verbalising his commands to the orchestra? Not at all. Conductors would ruin the great music being produced if they were to verbalise their instructions. Orchestral Conductors use gestures to motivate musicians, conduct the tempo, and unify the music to successfully produce exactly what the composer has composed. Without any verbal communication, a Conductor can reward (pleasure) or threaten (pain) any one of the musicians. With a wink or marvel in the eye, a musician is rewarded. A slight raise of an eyebrow, a musician is brought to order. Knowingly or unknowingly, Conductors are accessing their own nervous system and the nervous systems of those around them.  Project managers can do the same thing.

  the first rule is being  ignored,  coaching the team into believing in their unique abilities

Our projects are not failing because our teams are not able to perform – rather the contrary, our project managers are unable to perform. Most reject their natural abilities to simulate the desired project outcomes in their minds. Other project managers have not been widely educated or, even worst, are insufficiently experienced to coach their teams to move beyond their limitations. Some prefer to go by the book (PMBOK). Unfortunately, that works only up to a certain point, but then what? For example; they have not been taught how to actively motivate, unify and conduct the unique intelligent powers residing in the minds of their teams. Primarily, the first rule is being completely ignored, the rule of coaching the team into believing in their unique abilities. Have you ever been awed by those superhuman feats of gymnastics? Could you do any of that? Surprisingly, the answer is yes you can, if you practice, eat the right foods, and listen to your Coach.

 Good project managers coach their teams to go beyond what they can ordinarily do

Given time, we could all play basketball like Abdul-Jabbar, Football like Dave Beckham, Sprint like Florence Griffith-Joyner or Usain Bolt. American basketball coaches, for example, Coach John Wooden, will tell you how awed they are by what their players can produce when encouraged to move past their limitations. Coach Wooden recalled from experience how the brain can be fooled into surpassing what it believes are its limits. Coach Wooden held the belief that anything he imagined could be done on the basketball court, was done by his players. Those neurons in our brains, as I said earlier, are “relentless at reinvention”.  “Good project managers coach their teams to go beyond what they can ordinarily do, to what others will perceive as being extraordinary.” 300 – 400,000 years ago, the human brain evolved to provide humans with the ability to form simulations in their mind. As far as Professor Bullimore knows, we are the only species able to perform this ability. This significant breakthrough brought about – and is still bringing about – extraordinary results in human history. The point of mentioning this here is that, Coach Wooden’s simulations for his basketball teams brought them 88 consecutive wins – the highest for any Coach.

  imagine you as a project manager able to mould that unrefined power around you

Wooden simulated the impact of the combined unlimited power of his team. Like an Orchestral Conductor he unified them, motivating them to overcome their limitations to achieve their best. He understood his players in ways that they did not understand themselves. He remains one of the greatest Coaches in history. Like Coach Wooden, imagine you as a project manager able to mould that unrefined power around you to deliver some of the most incredibly complex projects – I am still doing it. You definitely can do it. It can be done – and successfully too.



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