IPMA International Project Management Association
8 February 2017 / 12:07

Competition first, collaboration second?

Competition first, collaboration second?

During his Inauguration Speech Donald Trump he made the following statement: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.” But does this actually work?

Let´s have a look at a small medieval town in Tuscany, San Gimignano, back in the 13th Century. San Gimignano was during the Middle Ages a stopping point for Catholic pilgrims on their way to Rome and the Vatican, as it sits on the medieval Via Francigena. The city’s development was also improved by the trade of agricultural products from the fertile neighboring hills, in particular saffron, used in both cooking and dyeing cloth and Vernaccia wine, said to inspire popes and poets. In 1199, the city made itself independent and established a chief magistrate, and set about enriching the commune with churches and public buildings. However, the peace of the town was disturbed for the next two centuries by conflict between Guelphs and Ghibellines, and family rivalries. This resulted in families’ building tower houses of increasing height. Towards the end of the Medieval period they were more than 70 in number and up to 70 metres tall. The rivalry was finally restrained when it was ordained by the council that no tower was to be taller than that adjacent to the Palazzo Comunale. The towers were built to protect the families from each other and to demonstrate power. However, life was uncomfortable and limited to the small space available within the towers. Growth and prosperity stalled and people imprisoned themselves in their towers. Finally, the families lost their independence and were ruled by nearby Florence.

What are the Lessons Learned? Walls, towers and competition ends in a negative spiral for all, especially those who meant to be “first”. We need to tear down walls (like it happened in Germany 1989) and not erect new ones! That does not only apply to countries, but also organisations, projects and people. Collaboration is first in a globalized world. Certainly, it is more difficult to understand each other, respect the differences (in views, age, race, gender etc.), and reach consensus amongst all of us instead of signing orders to the benefit of a few. It´s time to understand that collaboration needs to be first and competition last!



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Author of this post

Dr. Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 35 years in the field of project-related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Automotive, Engineering, and Consultancy, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH, a leading PM Consultancy in Munich/Germany, he supports executives of industrial clients in transforming their companies towards a project-oriented, adaptive and sustainably successful organization. He has published more than 40 books as well as several hundred articles and blog posts in the field of project management. In more than 20 years of voluntary engagement he served the German Project Management Association (GPM) as well as the IPMA in various roles and was granted for his international commitment with the Honorary Fellowship of IPMA and several of its member associations. He received his doctorate in the field of projectification of society and continues to be active in it through his research and lectures.