Many of the followers of my blog will recall my references to the principles and work of Lou Tice of The Pacific Institute. Lou Tice was a teacher and a leader who guided the development of many managers in large and small organizations. His “Achieving Your Potential” and “Investment in Excellence” Programs have been a mainstay for internal development of key personnel for many years.
One of the key messages I remember from his programs dealt with making plans and then acquiring the resources and capabilities to carry out those plans. Lou Tice’s teaching and principle was that managers do not have to have all the resources at their command to make bold plans. Indeed, it would be rare for them to do so. But many managers act just the opposite. They think they cannot make a move with any plans until they have all the resources at their command.
Lou’s theme was to make those bold plans and then find the resources and capabilities needed through the generation of internal energy that the mind provides in seeking a “solution” for the problem. The “reticular activating” system of the brain and mind would take over and uncover all types of resources and solutions.
Many years ago when my wife and I had been married a few years. she decided to teach an evening marketing course at a local business college. The course material and the textbook required by the college for the curriculum was very straight forwared and followed the theory of business marketing at that time. But it was not very up to date in terms of examples and cases which represented present day marketing and sales practices. So armed with the objective of finding good present day practices, we both began to scour the current literature for examples. Good examples began to literally jump out of the magazines and newspapers about new marketing approaches being employed by individuals and companies alike. At my place of business, I talked with Advertising, Marketing and Sales Managers about new methods of Marketing in business. Suddenly we had more material for each class then she could possibly use.
Expressed in other terms, once my wife and I focused on a plan for fining current marketing practices, the gap established between the desired state and the current state produced the internal energy to close the gap between the two.
In his program “Achieving Your Potential,” Lou Tice told a story illustrating this principle which has become one of my favorite stories over the years. At one time Lou was a high school teacher in Seattle and he and his wife Diane had children at home approaching teen age. As spring began to turn to summer one year, he noticed that the children were somewhat listless with the prospect that they may not see their friends as often over the summer months as they had during school session.
So, one night at dinner just to cheer up the family, he proposed the following: “What if we had a pool in the backyard this summer. You could schedule some pool parties and invite your friends. It might be a lot of fun.” Now, he proposed this plan just to give the family something to think about.
Immediately the children said, “Dad, that’s a great idea. You should go ahead and do it and we will be very happy to invite our friends.” After dinner, Lou and his wife Diane talked about the plan. He had no budget to carry this out but he had made a commitment to put a pool in the backyard by the summer. What was he going to do?
The next day at school, he was thinking about the plan and his commitment and his lack of resources. There was a maintenance man at the school named Joe who always seemed to know how to locate useful materials and make things work. So Lou sat down for coffee with Joe and said, “Say Joe, do you know where I can get a swimming pool. And I have not budget for this, so it has to be free. Any ideas?”
Joe thought for a minute and said, “Come with me.”
So they drove out to the end of the Seattle -Tacoma airport near a runway and Joe said, “The City of Seattle and the Airport Authority are going to lengthen this runway as part of a big improvement plan. They are going to relocate those families in the subdivisions just past the end of the runway. Look out there at all the above ground pools. I’LL BET YOU COULD ONE OF THOSE FOR FREE.”
So Lou found his pool and it fit his budget. Was it just luck that he happened to talk to Joe that day? No, Lou had set a bold plan and he was open to all the information that might come streaming into him about how to find a solution. He did not need to know where to look for swimming pools until he set an objective to obtain one.
This same principle can and should be applied by project managers today. Instead of trying to assemble all the resources and capabilities to make and carry out bold plans, project managers should define those plans and then search for the ways to close the gap between the current state and the desired state. The internal energy and “reticular activating” system will help project managers find the resources and capabilities.
Of course, there are some constraints within a corporate environment that might dictate tempering enthusiasm for bold plans. No project manager would tell his PMO Manager that he was going to increase his project team by 20 members and accelerate schedules for projects without rationale for such a move. The organization might have other plans for those 20 people.
But, without being too literal about the application of Lou Tice’s principles, individuals should make bold plans and pursue challenging initiatives. They will indeed find the energy and resources and capabilities for carrying out even greater initiatives. Project managers should follow this lead and the results will follow.
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