"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (ZAMM) is one of the bestselling philosophical books of all time. It is based on a motorcycle trip that the author, Robert Pirsig, took with his son, Chris, accompanied by an adult couple. The book is an excellent analysis of life and the art of living, portrayed through the journey across the North Dakota plains. Considering all projects, including cloud transformation ones, have a life in themselves, I hope it will be interesting to study the similarities with the themes expounded in the book.
Bestselling philosophical book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig
At the very beginning, Pirsig tells his readers that the book should “in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles either.” The book is instead a point of view that seeks to reconcile the differences between humanity and technology. Taking this cue, let us discuss reconciling the differences between product capabilities and customer expectations in a cloud transformation project by incorporating broad themes of ZAMM.
Though these themes apply to any cloud transformation, they perfectly fit in the Oracle Change Management principle of ALIGN, an acronym for Announce, Learn, Involve, Go-Live, and Next Steps, which is at the heart of moving any on-premises solution to the Oracle cloud environment. HCLTech’s Oracle Practice embeds and integrates this principle throughout the cloud project management lifecycle.
Announce: ZAMM classifies people into two kinds, i.e., classical thinkers, who view things in terms of their functions or technology, and romantic thinkers, who view things in terms of their appearance or experience. In any organization, we can broadly find these two kinds of thinkers, and it is important to engage with both kinds before kick-off when a new cloud project starts. In this context, HCLTech’s delivery team starts the project by letting us know the why and how of the cloud transformation project, including its impact at the time of Go-Live. The announcement would be in a context that resonates with the respective thinker’s personas. This sets the stage for all stakeholders impacted by cloud transformation to support the project.
Learn: Classical thinkers will be hands-on and keen to learn the technologies and functionalities of the products that they are using. On the other hand, romantic thinkers will be more concerned about the experience that the product has to offer than learning about the technology. HCLTech’s learning activities are designed to captivate these two kinds of thinker personas by identifying changes in their roles and processes post-Go-Live, and communicating how Oracle cloud will improve their day-to-day activities.
Involve: Being thoroughly involved or engaged in an activity is imperative for excellence. The separation of subject and object disappears when we are deeply absorbed in what we are doing, which is the core philosophy of Zen. This constitutes the concept of “quality,” which is discussed frequently in ZAMM. Involvement in cloud project management can be achieved by bringing together all key stakeholders and providing them with regular project schedules and goal updates. To accomplish this, the HCLTech delivery team helps the stakeholders to identify the project goals with their personal goals, collaborates seamlessly, and ensures the user’s acceptance of product functionalities.
Go-Live: ZAMM popularized the concept of the “Gumption Trap.” The dictionary meaning of gumption is "shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness," and "Gumption Trap" according to Persig, is an event or attitude that sucks out all the gumption from the present undertaking. In other words, it is an attitude or event that can cause a person to lose interest. In a cloud project, the Go-Live event may cause this attitude to set in, as it is perceived to be the project’s completion. To avoid falling into this trap, the HCLTech team takes a break to celebrate once the data migration is complete, implementing modern best practices and ensuring a successful go-live. We reach beyond the project team and bring together key users and company leadership to highlight the achievement and the way forward to sustain the project’s success.
Next Steps: According to ZAMM, the road trip is not about arriving at any destination. Instead, it is about the journey itself. We should not be consumed with our ends. In cloud transformation projects, the HCLTech team educates the customer that Go-Live is just the beginning of the digital transformation journey and opens innumerable opportunities to make their organizations future-ready.
While drawing parallels like this is an inspiring intellectual exercise, it is, in a way, pleasantly surprising to note that the themes of ZAMM and Oracle change management principles, which HCLTech has followed over the years, have much in common. If not already, I recommend reading this book and considering these themes as part of your reading. Then, consider comparing or incorporating these ideas and viewpoints into other aspects of your life.