Mike Jensen of Daptiv wrote 5 Tips for Project Managers from a Jedi Master. Mike eloquently offers guidance to project managers using 5 Jedi quotes. I urge you to read Mike’s post, even if you are not a project manager. It has messages for all of us and it is a fun read to boot. When I read the post, it immediately occurred to me that similar messages apply to collaborators as well. I would offer my ideas, in the context of collaboration, on the same 5 Jedi quotes.
Thanks Mike for doing the hard work. I had the pleasure of meeting Mike exactly a week ago today, when he was in town for a conference. Mike is not only a good thinker and writer, but also a jolly good fellow.
“Ohhh! Great Warrior! Wars not make one great.”
Collaboration is the true opposite of war. Thus, great guidance from Jedi! Working together, not against, is the essence of collaboration (co-labor), for a shared purpose, that would have a positive impact on the organization.
Disagreements in collaboration are not only inevitable, they should be welcomed. Reminds me of: When two persons agree all the time, one of them is not thinking! Disagreements can be very productive. They implore us to consider other points-of-view. Considering, discussing and resolving disparate points-of-view deliberately and respectfully often leads to better outcomes. Frank A. Clark, the author of a one-panel newspaper cartoon in the 1960s and later, once said, “We find comfort among those who agree with us — growth among those who don’t."
Just as disagreements, conflicts emerge during collaboration. Effective collaborators recognize conflicts early and resolve them constructively through open communication, feedback and problem-solving. Collaborators always keep their eyes on the prize, for it is the shared goal.
A by-product of effective collaboration is trust relationships that further create a culture of collaboration in the organization. In fact, impact of an effective collaboration lasts well beyond its deliverables.
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
Collaboration must produce results; it is not a rehearsal. Collaboration is not a goal unto itself. A collaborative effort has clearly-defined, shared objectives. Jedi reminds me of: We don’t pay for trying, we pay for results! Oh and another one: “Losers ‘try their best,’ and winners go home with the Prom Queen!”, said Sean Connery to Nicholas Cage in the movie, The Rock, when Cage said the he would try his best.
[Aside – a cultural exploration: Prom Queen is a very American and Canadian phenomenon. According to Wikipedia, “In the US and Canada, a prom, short for promenade, is a formal (black tie) dance, or gathering of high school students. It is typically held near the end of junior and/or senior year. It figures greatly in popular culture and is a major event among high school students. High school juniors attending the prom may call it Junior Prom while high school seniors may call it Senior Prom. In practice this may be a combined junior/senior dance. At prom, a Prom Queen and Prom King may be chosen. Other students may be honored with inclusion in a "prom court". Prom Queen and Prom King are honorary titles awarded to students chosen in a school-wide vote prior to the prom.” And, high school juniors and seniors are 11th and 12th graders, respectively.]
Collaborators must never confuse a series of meeting or set of activities with progress. Progress is measured through hitting milestones and producing outcomes/results.
Getting the right mix of people for the collaboration effort on hand goes beyond just the right skills, expertise and experience. We must also seek goals-oriented individuals.
“Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.”
I remember when President Reagan launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), commonly referred to as “Star Wars.” Only appropriate to bring in Star Wars while paying homage to Jedi! Folks at the Strategic Air Command (SAC) at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio brought in a group of children to generate ideas. For a child’s mind is not constrained by what’s possible!
Collaboration requires open-mindedness. The right mix of people brings diverse expertise to achieve goals. As mentioned earlier, diverse points-of-view often lead to better outcomes.
Collaboration requires one to express one’s real opinions, and ask questions without hesitation for even things that may seem obvious to others. In a way, asking the right questions is more important. Right questions lead to the right answers. A child often continues to ask “but why, mom/dad?” even to the frustration of parents. It is this series of “why’s” that helps us dig deeper and understand better, to achieve superior results.
A child’s trust may be construed as naïveté. But kids learn very quickly, as we know. Trust is at the core of effective collaboration: trusting other collaborators, unless they give you a reason to feel otherwise. After all, we are all in it together, to achieve our shared goals.
Being creative, and pushing our thinking. Challenges will always be there in collaboration but solutions with come as well.
And, in the process, we shall learn from others and grow.
“Always with you what cannot be done.”
What could not be done a century ago is now taken for granted.
No one can know everything, and we are just that one! The core reason for collaboration is that no one person can know or do everything. There would always be challenges for which we need to collaborate with others. You can not do it alone, it will always be with you, but you will find ways to get it done, through collaboration.
Frustrations abound along the way and temptation to throw in the towel is not uncommon. There is a huge difference between stress and distress. Stress can indeed be productive, for it challenges us to push ourselves beyond we feel comfortable.
“The path to the dark side, fear is.”
As we know, fear is a natural instinct for self-preservation. It kicks in when we feel threatened. In the context of collaboration, it may prevent us from expressing opinions, not being open-minded, avoiding disagreements and conflicts, and so on. Succumbing to such fears is a sure path to the dark side, of unpleasant experiences.
Then there is of course the fear of failure in completing the mission, whether it is individual or collective. Dr. Seuss has an eloquent message in the book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, Indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.).”
Challenges and frustrations are often there – and, yes, fear too! - whether they are of meeting deadlines or managing budget or resolving conflicts. Let’s the 98 and ¾ percent be the fuel for The Little Engine That Could, because then, as Dr. Seuss puts it, “KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!”.
[Aside – a cultural exploration: From Wikipedia, "The Little Engine That Could, also known as The Pony Engine, is a moralistic children's story that appeared in the US. The book is used to teach children the value of optimism and hard work. Some critics would contend that the book is a metaphor for the American dream."]
What do you hear when Jedi speaks?