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Bob Dylan’s Project Wisdom

Bob Dylan street art.I didn’t become a fan of Bob Dylan until relatively late in life. In fact, I had spent years studiously avoiding his music until a colleague gave me a cassette of his one day to listen to. He said I would enjoy it and to be honest I was blown away by the lyrics when I listened to it on the way home that night.

I think that Dylan’s lyrics are fantastic in part because of the way they are open to interpretation in so many different ways. Why, I bet we can even find some project management wisdom in there if we look hard enough.

We always did feel the same / We just saw it from a different point of view

Tangled Up in Blue is one of my all time favourite songs and this line is brilliant. Strangely enough, this meandering song started bouncing around inside my head in a project meeting one day. I thought the pressure had finally got to me and that I was cracking up. However, once I got to this line at the end I decided that my unconscious mind was trying to tell me something. You see, a lot of times in project work (and in life in general) you could feel the same way as someone but not get anywhere because, well, you are seeing things from a different point of view. If you are running into a brick wall when dealing with people on your projects then I would suggest keeping this snippet from the song in the head. The stuff about carpenter’s wives and topless bars would seem rather less relevant to a project manager.

I wish that for just one time / You could stand inside my shoes / And just for that one moment / I could be you

This lyric comes from Positively 4th Street and is another fabulous example of the wisdom of Dylan. It fits rather well in the project world as well if you think about it. After all, how many times do you wish that someone else could see things from your perspective for a change? It would make work a whole lot easier if your boss, your team members and your stakeholders could spend a moment in your shoes. However, let’s not miss the opportunity to look at this in the opposite way as well. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to spend some time in the shoes of the other people who are interested in your piece of work? Of course, there is no way of doing this but you could still open up your mind a little more and try to picture what your colleague’s worries and hopes are. If you manage to do this then you should find it a lot easier to meet their aspirations with your end product.

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind

This is one of the all time classic song lyrics but what does it mean? There are many different ways of interpreting it but which way would be of most use to a project manager? What about if we consider that it means that the answers which we are looking for are right in front of us but we can’t ever seem to quite grasp them as they drift by us. This protest song sung by Dylan deals with big themes like world peace and freedom but there is no reason we can’t apply the principles of this song to our daily jobs as well, is there? My personal take on this is that no matter what you are trying to do the answer is obtainable. You might have some part of it in your head or you might have access to someone who knows it but the key is that it isn’t as impossible as you might think that it is.

You don’t need a weatherman  / To know which way the wind blows

Subterranean Homesick Blues is another of my all time favourite songs and another Dylan classic which is almost impossible to understand. I have chosen here one of the few parts of the song which appears apparently fairly easy to understand, although I still reserve the right to get it completely wrong. Anyway, I think that Mr Zimmerman was telling us in these lines that you can often work out things on your own if you trust your own instincts. You might rely completely upon the weather forecasts but isn’t it sometimes easier and more reliable to stick your head out of the window and see what you think is going to happen? We can relate this to the project world easily enough can’t we?

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