Phil: Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?


Mrs. Lancaster: I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.


— Phil Connors (Bill Murray), Groundhog Day

This February 2nd was Groundhog Day. The day always reminds me of the movie of the same name which is one of my favorites. In the movie the main character Phil Connors, as played by Bill Murray, experiences the same exact day over and over again.

Alluding to this movie, I have heard many leaders say “My projects are like Groundhog Day, it’s the same disasters over and over again.”

These leaders are right that many projects experience the same problems as other projects. I have personally been involved in over 1,000 projects both as a leader and as a consultant. The patterns of problems that projects go through are very similar. If project leaders are not experiencing déjà vu they are not paying attention!

However, many of the leaders who notice the similarities between one project and the next need to remember that the movie they are referencing is really about learning.

Big spoiler alert for those who have not seen the movie. The main character Phil Connors learns from the repeated experience of the same day over and over again. He responds much differently to the problems of the day as he grows through the repetition of experience. For him, it becomes a journey based on loving the day he is in and making it a learning adventure.

It took Phil approximately 12,403 times to master that one day. (I looked it up.)  

I promise that attentive leaders can learn much more quickly than Phil did!  

It must become a habit to pause and learn. 

Learn from the successes.

Learn from the failures.

Learn from the ordinary bumps in the road.

You too can become a master of handling the beautiful problems (aka learning opportunities) any project or day provides for you.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

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