Advice from the Fiddler about the Project

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Advice from the Fiddler about the Project

Rich Maltzman, who co-authored Fiddler on the Project with Ranjit Biswas on Controlling Chaos, was talking to me about his book. Since then, we have been in touch trying to find time for discussion about authoring and project management. I finally got around to asking him some questions last Wednesday, and it sounds like the Fiddler book will be an interesting read for two reasons.
It’s based upon the Fiddler on The Roof story, so it won’t be dry to read.
It’s being written using Wikis, and the value that wikis have in Web 2.0 is something I’m still trying to grasp.

Rich was asked what inspired him to write a book about the film/musical. Rich said, “I have a long career in telecom project administration followed by developing and delivering courseware about the subject.” “I kept running into situations that were so well described with the metaphor of balance. I realized that the Fiddler on Roof story would be a great way to express this, which is something many project management textbooks don’t do because they are too dry.
I haven’t seen the film or the musical. However, there are posters in the tube for it, so it must be in London. Rich believes that I can still enjoy his book, even if I don’t know the original story. He said, “We will provide the proper backdrop.” “But, your experience would be greatly enhanced by knowing the larger context and being able to visualize the characters and hear some (excellent) music in your head.
Maybe I’ll rent the soundtrack from the library?
Rich replied that the “wiki thing” was still in progress when I asked about its progress. “We are moving towards 100 responses. We have had people debating and mostly just contributing examples and cheering on the idea.” He also suggested some other sites that might be useful to change my Luddite view about why wikis are useful.
He said, “I would recommend that you listen the HBR Podcast episode about Wikinomics to learn about examples how knowledege sharing can help in industry so far.” “We are smarter than me” is another option.
Ranjit and Rich describe the Fiddler in the film on their website.
He balances on the roof peak, perched atop his house, and produces beautiful, enchanting music. This melody is the inspiration for Tevya, the main character in the story. The fiddler never fails and he never falls.
I can see the parallels between project managers and being caught in the middle of a delicate balancing act among various stakeholders. But ‘never falls’? Rich asked me for advice on people who work on projects that fail. I know of many projects that have fallen.
Rich said, “The Fiddler never falls because he’s an imaginary character!” Unfortunately, things aren’t always so smooth in the real world. Real projects often fail and real project managers often “fall or fail.” Recover from failure. It wasn’t your fault. Recover your composure and play again.
For those who are facing projects that are on the brink of collapse, Rich suggests that you go back to your scope statement and review your objectives and assumptions. Rich advises that you review your assumptions and reaffirm your objectives. Don’t be afraid of asking for help from a higher authority. This does not include praying here, although that might be appropriate. I’m referring to your line of management, sponsors, and key stakeholders. You can recover your balance if you catch your fall early enough. Record what you feel as you fall. This is where you will be able to capture “lessons learned” while you correct your fall. It will help you in future projects.
Change the mindset of project teams to move from ‘failure’ to ‘learning’