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Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Lesson in Project Management and Team Work - From 7 Children

Yesterday evening, my three children and I left dinner on the table when they saw their friends outside.  The kids wanted to play!  I figured, why not?  Dinner could wait a few minutes while we captured the spontaneity of a pre-dinner play date.  Soon there were seven children running, jumping, riding a bike, throwing balls, and turning cartwheels in the grass.  I saw pure joy and contentment on their faces as they created games, joked back and forth, and climbed a tree together.  Their busy activity came to a stop after 30 minutes of perpetual motion.  A ball had bounced high enough to land on top of a very large, tall cluster of bushes that ran along the side of an apartment building.  They surprised me by immediately going into problem solving mode.  What  transpired over the next 20 minutes was a remarkable example of the power of team work to manage a project (retrieval of the ball) and how moderate supervision/consultation can enhance the overall experience.  Here's what I learned by observing the children from a few steps back:

1. The children ran behind to bushes to see if the ball had fallen to the ground. They did not see it, so one of   the children quickly scampered up a hill near the bushes to get a better view of the situation.  Nobody had to tell the child to do this.  Someone just took the initiative and did it! (Taking a step away to evaluate the location of the ball was a great strategy.)

2. When the location of the ball was identified, each child contributed their ideas for how to get the ball back. (They formed a plan.)

3. Each child took turns reaching for the ball while the others encouraged their efforts and offered helpful   advice.  Nobody made fun of the other participants in this process and everyone acted as a team.

4. Someone got the idea of finding a stick to push the ball off the bush and to the ground where it would be   easier to reach.

5. Resources were identified (sticks and branches of different lengths, sizes, and shapes).  Each resource was tested and evaluated for its effectiveness.  Comments were made and carefully taken into consideration.

6. When safety issues arose that the group did not foresee, such as watching out for windows as they used a  tree branch, I did provide input.  (Outside consultation by someone who has a different perspective on the project.)  They commented, "Oh, we didn't think about that."  They proceeded with caution.

7. The children were persistent, continued to offer each other positive feedback, and executed their plan in     a consistent manner.

8. The children successfully retrieved the ball and were elated with their accomplishment.  I offered my own
comments to congratulate them on their success.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we lose sight of how our families, friends and colleagues can come together to solve problems, identify resources, and create plans that can lead to successful outcomes.  I was humbled by what I observed, and hope that I will take this lesson to heart as I continue to work on my own interactions and relationships.  Hope this makes you smile and encourages you to inspire someone today.