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Newsflash -I come from "The Projects"!
I learned about the future of work by living in the projects
-- the kind of projects you routinely do at a professional-services firm or computer
More years ago than I care to remember, I reported to the offices of Martin Marietta in
Orlando Fla. for my first interview as a professional management consultant and finance
analyst. At 9 a.m., I interviewed for the job fresh out of college. At 3 p.m. that
afternoon, I was on an airplane to Red Stone Arsenal Alabama, to work on a project that
involved an investment in a $150 million Pershing Weapons systems upgrade project for the
US Army. Thus began my life -- in the projects.
Fast-forward 35 years. All white-collar work is project work. The single salient fact that
touches all of our lives is that work is being reinvented. The workplace revolution that
transformed the lives of blue-collar workers in the 1970s and 1980s is finally reaching
the offices and cubicles of the white-collar workers. For the blue-collar worker, the
driving force behind change was factory automation using programmable machine tools. For
the office worker, it's office automation using computer technology:
enterprise-resource-planning systems, groupware, intranets, extranets, expert systems, the
Web, and e-commerce.
After decades of wholesale neglect, companies are finally facing the fact
of pathetic white-collar productivity and realizing that they need to organize work in a
fundamentally new way. The old ways of working are too slow, too convoluted, too hard to
grab hold of -- and the value is too hard to capture. At the same time, white-collar
workers themselves are catching on: They need to rethink the very nature of work. If
they're going to have work in the future, they must be able to demonstrate clearly,
precisely, and convincingly how they can add value.
The answer -- the only answer -- is the project.
And not just any project, no matter how droning, boring, and dull, but rather what my
colleagues and I have come to call "Wham Projects": projects that add value,
projects that matter, projects that make a difference, projects that leave a legacy --
and, yes, projects that make you a star. Distinguished project work is the future of work
-- for the simple reason that more than 90% of white-collar jobs are in jeopardy today.
They are in the process of being transformed beyond identification -- or completely
Architects, accountants, graphic designers, lawyers, consultants, and all other workers in
"official" professional-services firms understand life in the projects. As a
professional, age 56, I can honestly say that I live the new formula: I = My
Projects. Yet this idea is fairly new for the typical white-collar
"staffers" in the human-resources departments, the IT departments, the finance
departments, and all of the other departments in standard-issue manufacturing, production,
and operations companies of the United States. All work of economic value is project work.
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And because project work is becoming that important, a few rules are
needed for thinking about projects the right way: Project work is the vehicle by which the
powerless gain power through thought. Forget about "empowerment programs."
Instead, volunteer for every lousy project that comes along: Organize the office Christmas
party. ( Turn that dreadful holiday party into an event that says, "Thanks for a
terrific year!" to all employees. ) Here's a dirty little secret from my professional
career: The research that comes from finding out the directions industries "should be
moving in" often conflicts with existing management's present business plan...and
they hate change!
Project work is the future of the company waiting to be discovered. Somewhere, in the
belly of every company, someone is working away in obscurity on the project that 10 years
or 10 months from now everyone will acknowledge as the company's proudest moment. Someone
is creating Java, designing the iMac, reviving the VW Beetle, engineering MP3 or inventing
PcOrder.com or the next FREE-Pc business plans. Why isn't that someone you?
Never let a project go dreary on you. Your goal should be to work in perpetuity with Wham
people, on Wham Projects, for Wham-able clients. How do you know when your project
measures up? Each week, ask yourself and your teammates, "Will we be bragging about
this project five years from now? If the odds of success are low, what can we do --
right now!-- to turn up the heat?"
When it comes to life in the projects, draft people as if you were a GM and invest as if
you were a VC. Work today is about three things: talent, Brains and projects. If you're in
charge of a project, you ought to think like the general manager of an NHL franchise:
You've got to fill 18 chairs with the hottest people you can draft for the next Stanley
Cup. And when it comes to picking your projects, you need to think like a venture
capitalist: You bet on cool people who have demonstrated their capacity to deliver cool
When it comes to "Wham Projects", you need to remember one essential
fact: Contrary to all of the project-management literature and all of the
project-software checklists, the point of the exercise is not to do a "good job"
of managing the project that your boss dumped into your lap. It's to use every project
opportunity that you can get your hands on to create surprising new ways of looking at old
To do that, you need to understand the four steps that go into
every Wham Project: finding and creating a great project, selling the project, executing
the project, and handing off the project so that you can move on to the next one.
Finding and Creating Your Wham Project:
It's out there, waiting for you -- your Wham Project. All you have to do
is find it, identify it, and then create it. It's that easy -- and it's that hard. After
all, how are you supposed to know it when you see it? And once you've got it, how do you
know how to shape it, to develop it, to make it Wham? To answer those questions and to
keep you on the right track, here are four steps to take to make your Wham Project happen,
one trap to avoid that could kill it, and five criteria to use to judge it.
Step One: Take the "Does it matter?" test. No
project worth talking about ever came to pass without passion. Period. So, as you begin to
gauge the worth of a potential project, ask yourself a series of passion-parsing
questions: What do you care about? What matters to you? What matters to your company? If
an idea for a project is meek and weak -- the equivalent of just another line extension --
it simply isn't worth spending time on. A "Wham Project" has to meet or to
create a compelling need -- or to be capable of being redefined so that it does.
The biggest, boldest, most stimulating and innovative projects often come from the most
compelling need for a team or a company to do something that will change the game: Launch
a sexy new product. Craft a breakthrough ad campaign. Change the logistics and the service
rules in your niche. Those are the kinds of projects that leave a legacy, projects that
everyone wants to wrangle their way onto -- or at least to get close enough to collect the
commemorative T-shirt that proves that they were there!
Here's the point: Projects --particularly projects that can actually change the
shape of the future -- are all about emotion. So, when it comes to recognizing a
project that matters to you, trust your emotions. Listen to your stomach and to your
heart. They'll tell you whether a project has the kind of pulse-racing, mind-expanding
possibilities on which you're ready to stake your reputation -- and a precious year of
Step Two: Here's the corollary to Step One: No project is too mundane to
become a Wham Project. I've seen a person who was assigned a presumably dead-end task --
cleaning up a warehouse -- turn that project into a chance to redesign the company's
distribution system and to earn a ticket to even more responsibility and even cooler
projects. All it took for that to happen was the application of personal passion ( see
Step One ) and an unwillingness to see the project as anything other than a first-rate
How did it happen? Given the project of "cleaning up the
warehouse," our passionate Wham Project leader ( PWPL ) quickly determined that the
problem wasn't a "messy" warehouse; the real problem was that the warehouse was
poorly organized -- which made the warehouse necessarily messy. A simple cleanup wouldn't
do a damn thing to solve the deeper problem: The warehouse needed to be reorganized. That
led our intrepid PWPL into a few carefully targeted benchmarking forays to educate herself
and a small, select group of suddenly interested team members on the art of warehouse
One of their key lessons: The organization of the warehouse needed to take into account
both the incoming parts from suppliers and the outgoing parts to customers. So, a short
time after getting the warehouse-cleanup assignment, this PWPL found herself making a
compelling case for a new distribution system that would feed flawlessly into the
reorganized warehouse -- a warehouse that would now stay neat because of newly designed
processes that fit the new distribution system perfectly. And that is how you turn a
little chore into a Wham Project.
Step Three: To a real life-in-the-projects person, everything is a golden
learning opportunity. To Richard Branson, the passionate, daring,
let's-try-it-and-see-what-happens chairman and president of the Virgin Group, the whole
world is full of projects waiting to be discovered. His main tool for project discovery: a
seemingly endless series of notebooks in which he painstakingly records his observations
about everything that he runs across. In these notebooks -- which probably number in the
hundreds -- are all kinds of observations on projects that are just waiting to happen.
Karl Weick, the brilliant University of
Michigan professor of organizational behavior and psychology, has his own system: His
sport coat doubles as a filing cabinet. He fills the pockets with anything that he can
make notes on -- scraps of paper, napkins, matchbook covers. Then, once a week, he empties
out his tweed filing cabinet and records his observations on his trust home Pc. ( Maybe a
Palm Pilot is what he'd like for his Birthday!)
If you're always observing, you're always learning -- and, in the
process, you're collecting ideas, leads, starting points that you can turn into a Wham
Project later on. Open your eyes, and you'll start seeing project material everywhere you
look. What's more, recording what you see teaches you another critical project lesson:
Little things do matter. For instance, design counts.
When you're looking for passion to infuse your project with, design is where you'll find
it. And passion can come in small touches: A flash of humor can change a completely
mundane, easily overlooked communication into a personal expression of attention.
Or passion can materialize in the art of simplification -- such as taking a mindless form
that unnecessarily forces office workers to decode gibberish and turning it into a simple
set of statements and boxes to check off. Which is exactly what the folks at the
Simplified Communications division of New York-based Siegel & Gale Inc. specialize in:
They can take something as uninformative and confusing as a credit-card bill and turn it
into an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand, customer-friendly communication that repositions
the bank that sends it out as the kind of financial institution that actually delivers
service! If you study the approach of Siegel & Gale -- or just look at street signs
that actually direct you -- you'll learn one key lesson:
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The best kinds of design,
like the best kinds of projects, don't call attention to themselves. They
use small touches to demonstrate the sensibility and the sensitivity -- the authenticity
-- of the people who have worked on them.
Step Four: Use superfast approximations to refine your Wham Project. 3M
has built a company around a simple approach: Make a little, try a little, sell a little
-- and then repeat those steps. The fastest, smartest way to get your project defined and
refined is to practice the art of quick prototyping. Don't keep your project hidden in
some private skunk works until you can hone it into a perfect deliverable. Instead, make a
rough prototype, and show it to some team members. Listen to their feedback; then go back
and make a second prototype. Show it to them again. You'll be doing two things at once:
improving your project, and selling people on its value ( after all, you've incorporated
their input! ). Make a little, try a little, sell a little -- that's how prototyping and
selling overlap from the beginning of a Wham Project.
One Trap to Avoid: getting too much money too soon.
That's the worst thing that can happen to a project. ( Believe it. ) Money will kill you
on two counts. First, it takes the pressure off. Early in the life of every project,
there's no substitute for the scrounging mentality. If you don't have enough money, you
have to innovate your way around problems that you could otherwise simply buy your way out
of. You have to work more closely with your users and your suppliers -- and, as a result,
they become part of the project from the beginning. You have to adopt the pirate's
mind-set: It's us against them! We're going to outthink, outhustle, outdream everybody --
because we sure don't have the money to outspend them.
Second, if you take money early on, from internal or external sponsors,
then early on you've got to listen to them. They just bought the right to sit at your
table and to meddle in your life. And the last thing that a Wham Project needs is a money
person setting the specifications for the project, deciding what's worth investing more
time and money in, and draining the passion from the project. To avoid the problem, live
poor and dream big.
Five Criteria for Judging Each Project: You can boil a project
down to a simple list of five criteria:
Wham! Beautiful! Revolutionary! Impact! Raving fans! ( That last criteria
comes courtesy of Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles's book "Raving Fans: A
Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service" [William Morrow, 1993]. ) After all, this
is the big enchilada. We all know what those five terms mean. (Right?) But we rarely --
make that, never -- use such language between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. It's time to change that.
Write down those five terms on a card. Put the card in your wallet. When the time comes
for you to judge whether a proposed project measures up -- or can be made to measure up --
simply dig the card out of your wallet. It either measures up, or it doesn't. You'll know.
Selling Your Wham Project
If you read the literature on project management carefully, there is one word that I
guarantee that you won't find: selling. People in the world of project management talk
about everything else -- from PERT charts ( PERT stands for program evaluation and review
technique ), Gantt charts, and time lines, to "specification creep" and
"risk-management methodology." Rarely, if ever, will you hear those people talk
about the need to sell your project. The assumption seems to be that, like a better
mousetrap, a worthy project will sell itself.
Although the project-management experts may not appreciate the need to sell, there is a
group of businesspeople who do understand the critical role of selling projects. They are
the people who inhabit the "real" professional-services firms: Every management
consultant, every ad-agency wizard, every stock-market jock is a salesperson. They're
selling their strong point of view, their recognized expertise, and their scintillating
services to customers on the outside, and they're selling their reliability,
dependability, and talent to colleagues on the inside. It's just another part of our old
friend THE BRAND -called You!
Your project and your brand go hand in hand:
Both depend on your ability to sell yourself and to sell your project. If
you want your Wham Project to happen, you have to learn how to sell it -- smart, hard, and
from beginning to end. A PWPL has to master two essential sales skills: pitching and
community organizing. The art of the pitch boils down to what we call "the two-minute
elevator spiel." You're on your way to your office, and you're riding the elevator.
The doors open, and the CEO gets on. As the doors slowly slide shut, she turns to you and
asks, "What are you working on that makes a difference to this company?" Her
eyes bore into you. You're alone in the elevator with the biggest of the big cheeses, and
you've got two minutes to tell her exactly why your project matters. So what is your
Sure, you've got butterflies in your stomach and a hammer in your heart -- but the
elevator pitch isn't really about dealing with pressure. It's about communication. And
caring. Can you take the hopelessly complicated set of problems that you're juggling in
your project and reduce those problems to three bullet points that anyone can immediately
understand? Better yet, can you dispense with PowerPoint slides altogether and sum up your
project in the perfect metaphor? For example: "By the time we're done with this
customer-satisfaction project, we'll be so close to our customers that they'll be our
bungee-jumping buddies." You'll know that you've nailed the perfect metaphor when the
T-shirts arrive for you and your team with the words "The Bungee-Jumping Bunch"
silk-screened across the chest -- courtesy of the CEO herself.
The other essential skill of the PWPL is community organizing. It's an art that flourished
in the 1960s under the tutelage of legendary activists such as Saul Alinsky, who wrote
Rules for Radicals ( Random House, 1971 ), and Caesar Chavez, who
was the founder of the United Farm Workers. The lessons they taught also apply to your
project. Community organizing is all about building grassroots support. It's about
identifying the people around you with whom you can create a common, passionate cause. And
it's about ignoring the conventional wisdom of company politics and instead playing the
game by very different rules. It'ds what leads me into excepting web projetcs from clients
who haven't a clue as to the direction the wired world is carrying them too.
For example, conventional wisdom instructs would-be PWPLs to get top management to give
their projects early "buy-in." The standard line says, "Get the boss's
support, and you've got the go-ahead you need." Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Never go to the
boss too early. And never go to the boss before you've done your grassroots organizing to
build the community support that you need to make the project a reality, a cool thing that
cool people want to be part of. Community organizing doesn't mean looking at the
organizational chart to see what the boss thinks. It means looking around you to see whom
you can convince to sign on; looking below you to see whom you can enlist in the cause;
and looking around you to see who's in a key area and who can contribute expertise. Don't
worry about the boss's approval. Get the community organizing done, and by the time you go
to the boss, she'll recognize that you've already gotten approval from the cool parts of
The second political mistake that you can't afford to make is to spend precious time and
scarce emotional energy worrying about your enemies -- and if your project is genuinely a
"Wham Project", don't doubt that you'll have enemies. ( Project axiom:
Anything worth doing makes the establishment mad. ) Forget your enemies. ( The
hell with 'em! ) Concentrate on building support among your friends. Get strong endorsers
who will lend their names and their clout to your project. Remember: You will never be
able to change your enemies' minds. The best you can do is to surround them with your
passionate, determined supporters on a mission to be first to market a new concept..
Executing Your Wham Project
Now that you've worked hard to identify and to sell your Wham Project, you're ready to
roll into phase three: time to execute! Except that it doesn't work that way -- not
exactly. Only in magazine articles can you break down work into separate, tidy phases. In
the real world of work, this stuff overlaps, runs together, merges, separates, and merges
again. In real work life, the DNA of a Wham Project is present in each of the four phases:
What differs is the relative concentration in each phase. So, for example, while you're
getting your Wham Project started, you're already doing some of the things that will
become important later in the life of the project -- such as practicing how to pitch it
and doing early community organizing.
As you move into selling your Wham Project, you're already doing some of
the things that you'll need to do to execute it -- such as prototyping, listening, and
improving. Just remember: You don't stop doing some activities simply because the emphasis
shifts. It's more a matter of recognizing where you are in the project's evolution, so
that you can make the right kind of concentrated effort at the right time.
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At the execution phase, you need to be sure to put the right kind
of concentrated effort into following three important "do's"
and three equally important "don'ts."
Do think of execution as a series of rapid prototypes. Life is a series of approximations.
You will never get your project right the first time ( or the 21st time, for that matter )
-- never. Holding onto it until you get it "right" is simply wrong. That's a
surefire way to guarantee that, by the time you unveil the project, not only won't it be
right, but you also won't have enough time, energy, or support to go back and make it
right. Great projects live off instant feedback and adjustment cycles. That's one way to
look at the Web: It's a giant real-time prototype. But the practice of using fast feedback
and fast adjustment cycles predates the Web. Hewlett-Packard pioneered that practice to
develop several innovative products: People would build a prototype and leave it lying
around in the open for others to talk about. Instant feedback allows for instant
adjustment cycles. The more iterations you can rapidly go through, the faster you can
execute your project.
A great moto is: "Fail often to succeed sooner." As strange as
it may sound, the work of execution is actually all about failure. So celebrate it! Bronze
an oversized screw, and award it each week to the project-team member who made the
"best screwup of the week." Why not?
Do think, live, sleep, eat, and breathe your time line. It's
time to get serious about getting your project done. So break this big amorphous thing
called "your project" into a living To Do list. What needs to happen today?
Tomorrow? This week? Build a simple, easy-to-use tool to track the project's progress. The
tool could be something as old-fashioned as a three-ring binder with a chapter divider for
Also, master the art of the 15-minute meeting -- a daily, attendance-required
"hot" session in which each member of the project team gives a quick progress
report, identifies that day's milestones -- or issues a desperate call for help. If CNN
can organize its whole day of broadcasting in a 30-minute morning meeting (
as it was doing in 1994, when I visited Ted Turner in his headquarters ), then
you certainly can keep your project on track in 15 minutes.
Do keep it fun. The point of the living To Do list is to make it
clear that you have reached the button-down phase of the project. But that doesn't mean
that you have to button down your personality. Don't you dare lose the sense of
playfulness that brought the team together in the first place. The simplest way to make
sure that you don't lose sight of the joy of doing a Wham Project is to remember to
celebrate. No accomplishment is too small or too insignificant to warrant a little
celebration. As you hit each of your milestones and as you fill up the three-ring binder
with your project team's accomplishments, remember the pause that refreshes. It doesn't
have to be a big bash: It can be just enough to keep the troops pumped.
Just as important as those three "do's" are the three
"don'ts": the bad habits that teams can slip into when it comes time to execute
-- the killers that can derail even the most promising Wham Project.
Don't talk it to death. You're going to spend a good part of any project talking about
your project. But the reality in most organizations is that execution too often turns into
talking about execution. It becomes talking instead of doing. The team stops building
prototypes and beta-testing and instead starts talking about what needs to happen next. Or
the team spends too much time in meetings, talking to each other, and not enough time in
the marketplace, talking with end-users. Think of it as a math problem: If most teams have
a talk/do ratio of 70% talking to 30% doing, then you want to reverse those figures so
that the ratio is 70% doing to 30% talking.
Don't stop selling. Here's another way to think of execution:
It's "just" scaled-up sales. ( No baloney. ) Your job during the execution phase
is to roll out your project. And that means building an ever-widening support base.
Execution is about taking the 5 fervent believers who backed you during the
finding-and-creating phase, along with the 15 fervent believers who joined the cause
during the selling phase, and adding the 45 new fervent believers who can help you take
your project into the field -- where it can be implemented. Never stop selling! Never stop
And, finally, Don't lose the emotion; don't let the project go dry. Just
as important as keeping the project on track is keeping it Wham! Face it: Project
execution is emotionally draining. It's easy for the Wham in the project to slip away
slowly and imperceptibly. After a while, you and your team get so tired that you forget
what gave the project its Wham, Beautiful, Revolutionary, Impact, Raving Fans quality in
the first place. You're in danger of executing what will turn out to be just another
project -- a "mediocre success" ( Another equation: Mediocre Success = Death. )
This is the time to take a station break. Take your team off-site for a day-long
excursion. Go back to first principles, and see whether you're still on course
emotionally. Bring in a new recruit, someone with fresh energy and enthusiasm. But don't
lose the energy that created the Wham Project in the first place. Project management is
emotional management. Period.
It's yet another core truth about projects that they don't teach you in
the "official" literature. But that's the nub of the issue: Projects are
intensely personal. You and your team have invested all that you've got of yourselves and
your relationships into making your project a go. When you think about that project --
even if you're just looking at cold numbers on a sheet of paper -- what you remember are
all of the late nights, the pizza-at-the-office dinners, the arguments, and the agreements
that made it all worthwhile. Now you've got to hand over all of that to someone else.
Handling the handoff is the last test of the PWPL.
The first thing you do is to throw the party-to-end-all-parties. If project management is
emotion management, then you and your team members will need a serious celebration to mark
your accomplishment. Don't be shy about it: Remember, you're still selling the project,
still building your brand. Commission the writing of a project history that records the
contributions of your team members and that captures the important lessons that were
learned during the project's development. And send out thank-you notes to all of the
helpers, supporters, and raving fans who made it possible: You're going to need them again
-- on your next Wham Project. The whole bloody point is to make sure that the project
stays successful -- not to demonstrate that without you, it would quickly hit the skids. (
Memo to self: Don't be a dumb control freak! )
If you're a great PWPL, you've already been sizing up your next opportunity. You've
already identified and recruited most of your team -- you want to make sure that you get
the people you want, not the people the human-resources department wants to give you. And,
if you've been practicing the Richard Branson-Karl Weick style of observation, you've been
assembling your own notebook-and-filing-cabinet collection of newspaper or e-mail
clippings, personal experiences, and random thoughts. All of that is raw material: It's
just waiting for you to sift through it and to pick one thing to turn into your next Wham
GOOD LUCK! You do resemble the sum of your projects.
IMS Webmaster Mike
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says Rolex, Movado or Baume Mercier you getting the real macoy. Wittnauer Men's Goldtone Watch with Diamond Dial ..save 62% ...only $385
This genuine Wittnauer Watch Features: Goldtone Case and
Bracelet * Black Dial with 42 Diamonds * Water Resistant to 30 Meters * Sapphire Crystal *
Swiss Quartz Movement Push Button Hidden Clasp and a 2 year warranty.
Personal Insights to reflect on....
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