Development Cooperation Handbook/The video resources linked to this handbook/The Documentary Story/The boss is never happy (especially if it is a project manager)
The boss is never happy (especially if he is a project manager)
I asked Fausto to try a fist cut editing of the Millennium Village project story. He did a decent job, considering his inexperience. We had the "minimum acceptable quality" for social work documentaries, and so we could already start using it as formal justifications for the expenses incurred: I put it on Youtube and mentioned it, in the intermediate progress report, as a completed project output. But I complained to Fausto that the story was without suspense, that it had a didascalic character. And that there were not enough images of the work in progress in the countryside. We hear people speaking of problems, and of solutions. But we do not see the problems. We do not see the solutions. Then it is almost like a radio documentary, with the only difference that we see the face of the persons who talk. How can we bring the viewer there in rural India if we are not able to show farmers at work, fields, crops, animals, etcetera? Where is the sweat, the fatigue, the worries of the local farmers? We cannot talk of the work: we need to show it in progress!
Also the first cut editing of the Gauri was very well done, considering it that it was her first time. But she also had overloaded the story with the images of the people interviewed, while we had few images of what was happening and of the whole social and cultural context.
So I was somehow critical to them. I meant to indicate them the road to produce something of a better quality. But somehow they resented my criticism and felt they were not sufficiently appreciated for the sincere effort they had done.
That is the typical difficulty of managing a project team. On the one side you have to be a friend, a confident, one who mobilize the spontaneous dedication and creativity of your junior colleagues. On the other side you have to adopt with them that kind of cruelty that the project is actually having on you: that never gives you the time and the resources sufficient to do the job with the quality that is expected, within the timelines that are agreed and within the procedures which are required. Problems arise and then: you have to solve them. As a project manager you have no excuses but solving the problems. So you try to ask the solidarity of your colleagues in solving the problems. But they want you to solve the problems that they are facing. So you sometime feel squeezed between the two sides of problem generations. And you feel so lonely in inventing solutions. If you are not able to face that loneliness you cannot be a project manager.
At the same time a [project is really a human adventure and as all human adventures do not have their real value from where the you reach but rather from the spirit by which you have moved on the path. When it happens that the team moves with a sense of solidarity, challenges become a vehicle of increased cohesion; problems become the triggers of creativity and the peculiarity of each person become the real unique asset of your team. Then the job is satisfying, in spite of how difficult and tiring it can be.
There is plenty of managerial advice on how the built a team spirit. But I do not think that there is any technique that works. It basically depends on the humanity of the persons that trigger the chemistry. And it is the kind of objective you are working on, its human content, that appeals or not to the humanity of the team members. In creativity is like in love: acting amatory is much more intense and effective than acting professionally.
Returning to the Millennium Village and the KFI projects I learned the lesson of the first edition by Fausto and Gauri: from now on no more "lessons" but "short stories"; no more "preaching", but "ongoing adventures".
Two years later, when I re-edited the first draft of Eugad, which was overloaded with interviews, for the final cut in the Vrinda Project Documentary, which was meant to be less didascalic and more dramatic, I used both the projects as introduction of what the stakeholders think, and I confronted the different view in the description of the issues. The monomyth (hero's journey) is not the only dramatic pattern: confronting ideas is always a narration, if we articulate it as the path by which we arrive to choices that shape our stories. Fantastic or realistic, "mythical" or "evidence-based", dealing with the universe or dealing with the now ... what we say can be really understood when we frame it as a part of a story.
What is not a "narration", is a dogmatic outburst. The only knowledge that can be shared is the description of the itinerary we have taken in order to frame our mental categories. Concepts are no longer opinions, but they are still our personal way to comprehend the coherence of the universe. What we achieve with our thought is a subjective realization. But on the way of self realization, we proceed on patterns that are as functional as they are commonly employed by people of different contexts and different cultures; and we move along paths that are as joyful as they are shared with trusted travel companions