More Samurai Wisdom for Projects – Hagakure Part 2

Recently, I took three paragraphs from The Book of the Samurai – Hagakure – and showed how their wisdom can be useful to a project manager.  Here are three more.


Invest in People

Putting forward a great effort to correct somebody’s bad habits is the right thing to do.  It is said that even an adopted child can be taught to resemble you, if you teach him continually.”

As project managers, we have a responsibility for the people we lead.  If you invest your time and effort in your team, then they will repay your commitment with their own.  Being a project manager is not just about managing the project, it is about managing your team and developing them is one of your primary responsibilities.  You rarely get the team you want, but you nearly always get the team you deserve.


“Master Ittei said: ‘If I were to say what it is to do good, I would say simply that it is to endure suffering.  Failing to endure is always bad.’”

Project managers must be resilient in the face of set-backs and failures.  If your project is pushing the boundaries, there may be many and anything but a firm resolution will result in total failure.  However, where Samurai philosophy would let us down is if we were to take from it the idea that a glorious death is preferable to a defeat.  As a project manager, you must know how to re-assess a situation objectively and, if necessary, cancel a project.  See my earlier post about the Sunk Cost Trap.

Soonest said, least pain

“”When there is something to say, it is better to say it straight away.  If you say it later, it will sound like an excuse.”

I recently blogged in a different place about the importance of conveying news yourself.  This quote reminds us that, particularly with bad news, the sooner you deliver it, the easier it is to hear.

Another corollary to this is that it is always best to give all of the bad news in one go. “The schedule has slipped, but we expect to have this work package complete by the end of the month” followed at the end of the month by “nearly there – another two weeks…” and then “definitely at the end of next week…” will cause infinitely more frustration and a far greater loss of confidence than giving all of the bad news immediately – once you have taken the time to make a full and realistic assessment of the situation.  “We have slipped.  There are no excuses, so we have re-scheduled and analysed the problem and can now confidently forecast delivery at the end of next month.”

The “so what?”

Invest in developing team members, take set-backs in your stride, and give bad news quickly and completely.


One thought on “More Samurai Wisdom for Projects – Hagakure Part 2

  1. Pingback: What Machiavelli can teach us | Shift Happens!

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