Are We There Yet?

London 2012 banner at The Monument.

London 2012 banner at The Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As someone who was not sporty at school I have a huge admiration for people who are dedicated, train hard, and ultimately find a way to excel in their particular field.  When they manage to reach their goal against expectations and despite obstacles I am even more impressed.


Kudos then to Nicola Adams, who is the first Olympic Women’s Boxing Gold medallist at the London 2012 Games.


Speaking to the Guardian newspaper in September she describes what she has learned from competing in the ring, with hundreds of people watching her bout “…[it] teaches you a lot about confidence. Now I know that if I want to get something done, I can do it as long as I put my mind to it”.


That’s a philosophy which Nicola has put to the test, as she notes there are still some people who disagree with the idea of women boxing.  As she goes on to say, “If a woman wants to play a sport, she can. There’s nothing stopping us”.


Perhaps the factors stopping anyone from achieving what they set their heart on are twofold.  First other people may disapprove, or get in the way; second there may be an element of self-doubt at work.


Hats off to Felicity Aston, the first woman to ski solo across Antarctica in January 2012.  Again, like with Nicola Adams gender expectations shaped attitudes to future success, as did a small inner voice.


Speaking to journalist Huma Qureshi, Felicity said that “…the most powerful motivator was thinking of all those people who had underestimated me or put me down – I didn’t want them to be right, I wanted to be right. And so I’d get the strength to carry on, to get up and go”.


She continues with an, I think, interesting generalisation about the relationship between gender and confidence.  She says “Sometimes I work with amazing women and yet I sense they have this lack of confidence in their own intrinsic abilities. Sometimes I do too – and I wonder why we do when men don’t?”


I wonder if actually men might just present an air of confidence about their intrinsic abilities, whilst they secretly may feel just as doubtful about their competencies.  An article which appears in the Motoring section of the Daily Telegraph got me thinking about this.


In the piece explorer and ‘natural navigator’ Tristan Gooley noted that “Being forced to confront the fact that their [natural navigation] system does not work makes men flustered and usually results in them putting the pedal to the floor in a desperate bid to avoid the reality of the situation”.


That seems like a brilliant metaphor to me.  Some people, men and women, are consciously not competent and choose not to address that fact.  They may be the ones who never end up at a satisfactory destination.  Perhaps for either gender it is better to ask for help, to reach your destination, rather than carry on frustratingly doing something that simply doesn’t help complete the journey.

There May Be Trouble Ahead

English: The diagram above represents a generi...

English: The diagram above represents a generic framework for risk management. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fictional head of the Twenty Twelve Olympic Deliverance Team, Ian Fletcher, would have been quietly scathing had a hapless contractor failed to produce the promised level of security staff days before the Opening Ceremony.   What a nightmare for an Olympic Chief with days to go before the Games begin.

Olympic Chief – “So are you telling me, the Head of Olympic Deliverance, that your firm managed the risk of not delivering the full quota of 12,000 fully trained and equipped staff – at the right venues, at the right time – by basically, crossing your fingers?”

Hapless Contractor – “In strategic terms, utilising our end-to-end ‘recruitment to deployment’ process we should have provided the full roster of staff at each venue, as per our contract.”

OC – “Well, thank you for that answer to a question, in all fairness, I haven’t actually asked.  Turning now to your risk management strategy on this contract.  What would you say that consists of, in a nutshell?”

HC – “In a nutshell?  Being honest?  (Pause) That would be pretty much be what you said. Sorry”

OC – “There you go.  With crossed fingers who needs Risk Registers?  Well. It’s all good.  Luckily there are some uniformed staff not doing much, ahead of the big day.  Aside from brushing the dust of Afghanistan off their boots, seeing their families and so on…”

Coming back to the reality, it’s scary to think that a major contractor thought they could use their standard project planning methodology to seamlessly deliver more than 10,000 staff to 2012’s principle sporting tournament.

Looking at that goal rationally it is a huge challenge to accomplish that outcome on time, without having any experience of successfully completing a project that size, without a carefully tailored approach.

Far from enhancing their reputation for professional delivery this contractor may have placed greater scrutiny on the way they deliver on their other contracts.

I don’t think they will earning a place on the winners’ podium this year.