Groundwork With Horses Can Teach Us About Groundwork For Project Management

“Unfortunately, many new project managers receive virtually no job training. Sometimes you must rely on coaching and survival tips from people who have already done their tour of duty in the project management trenches.” ~ Karl E. Wiegers. ‘Secrets of Successful Project Management
Karl Wiegers published four key components of laying the groundwork for success with managing projects in a Software Development issue in November 1999:
  1. Describe the benchmarks of what would be considered as successful for the project
  2. Characterize each of the five project dimensions to identify the boundaries that the stakeholders have to work with
  3. Detail the milestones that should be achieved to consider when the product is ready for release
  4. Commit to communicate negotiations with customers and managers so everyone understands what is and is not reasonable for accomplishment with the time constraints

Working with my horse was approached as a project. He was a project that was started to test the claims of published studies that touted equine therapy as effective for learned emotional regulation. What I was not expecting was how much of the groundwork points that Karl Wiegers advises would be solidified.

Howdy and I have begun the next milestone of building our relationship to become a team.

Peter Halay is my chosen Subject Matter Expert (SME) that is teaching me how to communicate with Howdy effectively.  This journey required an emotional shift to learn what I needed to learn because horses can be dangerous if we do not know what we are doing.

Even though I’ve been around horses growing up, I didn’t have anyone that I trusted to teach me how to work with horses. I have been fortunate to find someone that I trust when I was given my horse. My trust in Peter was earned through his own professional challenges.

humility

It is not easy to teach in a society where a good majority have a difficult time listening to have clarity with the interpretations of what they believe they heard. I believe that communication is challenging for all of us as a result of our biases and that practice and humility is involved to communicate effectively.

There was a time when I was wondering whether Howdy would be trainable. I was feeling discouraged and my trainer assured me that there would be many discouraging moments and to not let the slips get the better of me. Instead, pay attention to the trend. Are the data points trending upwards or are they declining? If we notice a downward trend, then adjustments would be necessary to try to have a positive impact on the direction. How many of us look at projects that way? Do we tend to look at all of the negative points without looking at the broader picture?

There is so much to be proud of and grateful for. Howdy did some things today that I have not seen him do like he has been doing them for months. The payoff of learning how to do groundwork is a willing horse that listens to its leader.

I have watched instructional videos, read various chapters in books, and watched people work with their horses to observe results and today solidified that a lot of effort I put in to learn, to be willing to accept the risk of mistakes, and the mere choice of trying has a payoff. 

Today, I have seen an expert take my horse to a new level of groundwork that made training look like it is easy. It is not easy. It’s a whole lot of dedication, consistency, and emotional investment in doing the hard work to change my default reactions.  

Some studies tout that neuroplasticity is promoted through learning and emotional regulation is improved by doing new creative expressions while working towards a different method of managing emotions. 

True to my nature, my horse was the perfect opportunity to put that declaration to the test. Is it a fluke? Maybe it’s the exceptional talent and dedication of my trainer. Maybe it’s my horse’s personality. Maybe it was my dedication as imperfect as that may be. 

I believe it took all of those components for Howdy and I to reach this level. Some things I did were by sheer accident and may have been influenced by something I subconsciously learned. 

Whatever the case may be, my belief in the importance of learning groundwork to build the communication lines with horses is solidified. 

Effective communication requires an openness by all involved parties. Trust and willingness to challenge our biases to elevate our awareness while testing flaws is key to progress. 

I am in awe this morning and excited about the results of what we all have achieved with my horse. That is #TEAMWORK and teamwork is a whole lot of backbreaking, soul searching, emotional work.

 

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