The Blind Men and the Elephant

Mastering Project Work

David Schmaltz (Author)

Publication date: 04/09/2003

Bestseller over 25,000+ copies sold

The Blind Men and the Elephant
An ancient fable illustrates the true nature of all project work and propose ways anyone might choose to make your projects work.
  • Presents a set of simple, proven techniques that all can use to increase their projects' coherence and overcome common project difficulties
  • Adds the ingredient most often absent from discussions of project work-you and what you can do to influence your own experience
  • The Blind Men and the Elephant is a powerful metaphor for understanding project management

If you work, you probably manage projects every day-even if "project manager" isn't in your official title-and you know how frustrating the experience can be. Using the familiar story of six blind men failing to describe an elephant to each other as a metaphor, David Schmaltz brilliantly identifies the true root cause of the difficulties in project work: "incoherence" (the inability of a group of people to make common meaning from their common experience).

Schmaltz exposes such oft-cited difficulties as poor planning, weak leadership, and fickle customers as poor excuses for project failure, providing a set of simple, project coherence-building techniques that anyone can use to achieve success. He explains how "wickedness" develops when a team over-relies on their leader for guidance rather than tapping their true source of power and authority-the individual.

The Blind Men and the Elephant explores just how much influence is completely within each individual's control. Using real-world stories, Schmaltz undermines the excuses that may be keeping you trapped in meaningless work, offering practical guidance for overcoming the inevitable difficulties of project work.

  • Presents a set of simple, proven techniques that all can use to increase their projects' coherence and overcome common project difficulties
  • Adds the ingredient most often absent from discussions of project work-you and what you can do to influence your own experience
  • The Blind Men and the Elephant is a powerful metaphor for understanding project management

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Overview

An ancient fable illustrates the true nature of all project work and propose ways anyone might choose to make your projects work.

  • Presents a set of simple, proven techniques that all can use to increase their projects' coherence and overcome common project difficulties
  • Adds the ingredient most often absent from discussions of project work-you and what you can do to influence your own experience
  • The Blind Men and the Elephant is a powerful metaphor for understanding project management

If you work, you probably manage projects every day-even if "project manager" isn't in your official title-and you know how frustrating the experience can be. Using the familiar story of six blind men failing to describe an elephant to each other as a metaphor, David Schmaltz brilliantly identifies the true root cause of the difficulties in project work: "incoherence" (the inability of a group of people to make common meaning from their common experience).

Schmaltz exposes such oft-cited difficulties as poor planning, weak leadership, and fickle customers as poor excuses for project failure, providing a set of simple, project coherence-building techniques that anyone can use to achieve success. He explains how "wickedness" develops when a team over-relies on their leader for guidance rather than tapping their true source of power and authority-the individual.

The Blind Men and the Elephant explores just how much influence is completely within each individual's control. Using real-world stories, Schmaltz undermines the excuses that may be keeping you trapped in meaningless work, offering practical guidance for overcoming the inevitable difficulties of project work.

  • Presents a set of simple, proven techniques that all can use to increase their projects' coherence and overcome common project difficulties
  • Adds the ingredient most often absent from discussions of project work-you and what you can do to influence your own experience
  • The Blind Men and the Elephant is a powerful metaphor for understanding project management

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - David Schmaltz

David A. Schmaltz is the founder of and Principled Consultant for True North project Guidance Strategies, a consulting firm dedicated to helping people work well together to create exceptional results. For more information, please visit www.projectcommunity.com.

David serves on the Board of Directors of the BK Authors Cooperative. He is author of The Blind Men and the Elephant: Mastering Project Work (Berrett-Koehler, 2003).

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Table of Contents


Preface: Naive Beginnings

Chapter 1: The Blind Men

Chapter 2: The Elephant

Chapter 3: The Wall

Chapter 4: The Spear

Chapter 5: The Snake

Chapter 6: The Tree

Chapter 7: The Fan

Chapter 8: The Rope

Chapter 9: Theologic Wars

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Excerpt

The Blind Men and the Elephant

THE BLIND MEN 1

9781605096124_0014_001

THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT


It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.


The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”


The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”


The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up he spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”


The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“’Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”


The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”


The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”


And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


Moral:
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

—John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

9781605096124_0015_001

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Endorsements


"David Schmaltz has an extraordinary ability to decipher the human dynamics that destroy projects and damage relationships, and his insights and ideas reveal how to avoid these problems. Don't start your next project until you've read this book."

-Naomi Karten, author of Communication Gaps and How to Close Them

"I appreciate Schmaltz' ability to paint a picture of project management that includes the most important ingredient-people. Understanding and integrating the concepts of this book will make managing projects and people a whole lot more fun."

-Chuck Kolstad, President and CEO, ANTARA

"This book is pithy, insightful, and in places, profound. The ratio of ideas to paragraphs is quite high. Plan on reading it more than once."

-Randon L. Taylor, Lead Programmer Analyst, Standard Insurance Company

"Be prepared for a journey of discovery into how your choices impact your effectiveness. A thought-provoking book about not only work projects, but effectiveness in other areas of life."

-Mark Lewis, Lieutenant Colonel (ret), United States Air Force

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