Anecdotes for Project Managers: Looking for the key

Lately, I started to realize that a lot of the project management I do has to do with anecdotes.

I like using anecdotes, it matches my mentality for managing projects, especially larger projects: I believe that problems should be solved as close to the actual work as possible, and I believe that I am in charge to help the teams to leverage their own full potential. Anecdotes have proven a valuable means to unlock successes, like in the following example: Lately, I realized that I’m using the following joke over and over again with different people:

One night, a drunken guy has lost his keys, and he’s desperately looking for them. Then, another person steps in to help him, and they jointly search for the keys. Eventually, the other person asks: “We’ve been searching forever now, we’ve looked everywhere. Are you sure you lost the keys here?”

The guy replies: “No, I’ve lost them over there. But the light is much better here.”

Usually, I tell this story when I watch somebody trying to work around a problem, especially if the root cause is “elsewhere”. Frequent examples are other line orgs, other locations, or other projects. Often, that can be fixed by just drawing attention to the situation. People are cooperative after all, but often they are not aware. Still, many people prefer to stay withing their own comfort zone.

People regularly change their approach immediately after the discussion where I told the joke. 😉