Seeing Differently

Seeing Projects Differently

“Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now” (Frankl, 1969, p. 75)[i].

Kant asked ‘what is man’. Before we try and answer that we have to understand ‘where is man’? Where does the human reside in the human person? In which dimension is the humanness of a human being to be found? Is the person at the centre of the process or is the process at the center of the process? Knowing that there is a personal search for meaning, can enhance the skills for managing people, by helping them to identify their creative values and what is of personal value to them, before helping them to attain those personal values in doing the work, as  “It is assumed people are motivated to perform activities on projects only to the extent that the activities they are being asked to perform serve their personal values” (Graham, 1989, p. Viii)[ii].

This assumes that with greater emphasis on the person and their capacity for personal freedom and responsibility, one can  achieve greater levels of success in project tasks and activities. 853dc579-471d-4ee4-be98-d1936fb919af-original

Studies indicate that good human relations, people skills and senior management support are all related to success in projects (Baker et all 1983)[iii].

This would suggest that while scheduling and control remain important, managing people in a temporary environment by forming a team of diverse personalities, obtaining cooperation from people over which one may not have control, is key (Graham, 1989, p. Ix)[iv].

Most organizational policies aim to preserve stability and therefore a degree of certainty, while most projects aim to implement change. This allows for a natural culture clash between organizations that support the bureaucratic role based culture addressed previously that has been identified as being good for routine and not for creating something new or innovative and organizations that are trying to introduce a project task based culture that is good for innovation and bad for routine.

The basic principles of organization also seem to go against the tendencies of individual growth and creativity when self-actualisation is compared to self-transcendence.

On the needs of the individual and the organization Argyris (1957)[2] is cited by Graham and assumes trends in individual development and suggests the basic principles of organization go against these tendencies of individual growth.

Task specialisation is said “to ignore the tendency towards self-actualization and requires an individual to use only a few of his abilities” (Graham, 1989, p.188)[v].

As we have seen, Frankl cites Maslow[3] and Maslow’s admission that the “business of self-actualization can best be carried out via a commitment to an important job” (Frankl, 1970, p.38)[vi] therefore suggesting self-transcendence is the primary goal. This would suggest that a task based culture supports logotherapy and existential analysis’ position on what is a primary motivation rather than an “unintentional effect of life’s intentionality” (Frankl, 1970, p.38)[vii].

Being asked to move outside of your comfort zone from regular management where a functional form of management grouped by departments is common, to another form of management as part of a project team, “requires the project manager to be part planner, part psychiatrist and part masterful organizational politician. In addition, he or she is often deeply involved in the creation of a workable project culture. Such a position is not for the faint of heart” (Graham, 1989, p. 8).

This too suggests there is strong relevance towards a theory and therapy whose founding Father was a psychiatrist but for whom the move “from psychotherapy to logotherapy” was of critical importance (Frankl, 1969, p. 3)[viii].

It also alludes to the phrase ‘not being for the faint of heart’ may suggest the role has a part to play in current stressful work place findings as “74% of employees agree that the workplace has become increasingly stressful, while 72% feel that a pressurised environment has now become the norm. Stress is a fact of modern life. How we interpret and cope with it is the critical factor. Managing it poorly will undermine our physical and psychological health. Managing it well can make us stronger and more effective in our work and our relationships” (Aviva workplace health index, p. 7)[ix].

Not everybody has the capacity to view or cope with the stresses and strains in a particular way that might alleviate the strain, as was the case of the business man mentioned previously Pierre Waulthier the CFO of Zurich insurance[4] who committed suicide in August 2013. Logotherapy and existential analysis offer a theory to how the man on the street and the business man value their success based on dimensional anthropology that provides another view on what is meant by higher and lower dimensions.

Day by day the business man moves in a dimension whose positive pole is success and whose negative pole is failure. It can be represented as follows:

Failure –                                                                                                                             + Success


This is the dimension of the competent man, the clever animal, of the Homo Sapien. But the suffering man who by virtue of his humanness, is capable of rising above and taking a stand to his suffering, moves in a dimension perpendicular to the former.

A dimension whose positive pole is fulfilment and whose negative pole is despair.

It can be represented as follows:

Fulfilment +                                                                                                                      – Despair


However, human beings strive for success but if need be do not depend on their fate which may or may not allow for their success. They will be capable of finding and fulfilling meaning, by the very attitude they choose, in even a hopeless situation.

This is only understandable through logotherapys dimensional approach which can be represented by creating a matrix of both dimensions as follows: Picture1

“The attitudinal values are the highest possible values and a higher dimension is allocated to them, than the creative and experiential values. The meaning of suffering – unavoidable and inescapable suffering alone, of course – is the deepest possible meaning” (Frankl, 1970, p. 75)[x].

This approach makes it easier to understand why a project manager or core team member may suffer from a phenomenon such as the occurrence of despair despite success, where despite the achievement of goals they are suffering under pressure.

On the other hand, there is a phenomenon which could be described in terms of fulfilment despite failure where they carry their cross lightly and shoulder their burden with courage showing one can find meaning in failure.

Therefore in the light of dimensional anthropology and ontology, despair is well compatible with success – as compatible as fulfilment is with failure (Frankl, 1970, p. 77)[xi].

If we combine this model with the multidimensional types and aspects of a project, it can be represented as follows:

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[1] Frankl develops his meta psychology above all in the following seven works: The Unheard Cry for Meaning (1978), Psychotherapy & Existentialism (1985), The Doctor and The Soul (1986), The Will to Meaning (1988), the identically titled book in German albeit with different content, Der Wille Zum Sinn (1991), and Der Leidende Mensch (1990), which includes republications of Homo Patiens and Der Unbedingte Mensch.

[2] Argyris, C. “The Individual and the organization: Some problems of mutual adjustment,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 1-24, 1957.

[3] Abraham H. Maslow, Eupsychian Management: A Journal, R. Irwin, Homewood, Illinois, 1965, p.136. Frankl goes on to cite Maslow on page 39 in the Will to Meaning regarding the pursuit of pleasure and happiness where Maslow admits “hunting peaks is a little like hunting happiness” and “our inner experiences of happiness are very similar no matter what stimulates them” and as to peak experiences he makes a parallel statement to the effect that they are uniform although “the stimuli are very different: we get them from rock and roll, drug addiction and alcohol” yet “the subjective experience tends to be similar”.

[4] http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303532704579477263082892626

[i] Frankl, Viktor. The Doctor and The Soul. London, Souvenir Press Ltd, 1969.

[ii] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered, USA, Primavera Press, 1989

[iii] Baker, B.N., Murphy, D.C., and Fisher, D. “Factors Affecting Project Success” in Project Management Handbook (D. Cleland and W. King, EDs.). USA, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1983

[iv] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989

[v] Graham, Robert. Project Management as if People Mattered. USA, Primavera Press, 1989

[vi] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970

[vii] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970

[viii] Frankl, Viktor. The Doctor and The Soul. London, Souvenir Press Ltd, 1969.

[ix] http://www.avivahealth.ie/site-files/documents/Wellness-index.pdf

[x] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970

[xi] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970