In reading “Poke The Box” by Seth Godin today, I was struck by the book. He gives the following observation about projects
Welcome to Project World
You’ve been living in Project World for so long you’ve probably forgotten that for a long time, projects didn’t matter so much.
Ford Motor changed the world with a venture that lasted longer than almost any employee in the company did. The Model T came off the assembly line for nineteen years. Ford ultimately sold more than 15 million cars. The people who were there when it launched were probably not the same people who made the cars when the project ceased. Sure, it was a project to get the car launched, but the real job of Ford Motor was to make a lot of this particular model, over and over and over, and profit each time. The project of launching it was a necessary evil, but the large-scale manufacturing was their business.
Consider the organizations you’ve encountered, bought from, or worked for. Most of them (if they’ve been around for more than a decade or two) are based on this assembly line model of scalability. The system is the system; don’t mess with it.
Now, think about the newer organizations, the ones that are growing and making an impact. Think about Apple, Google, director James Cameron’s team, Ideo, Pixar, and Electronic Arts. Theses are project-centric organizations. Each one of these organizations consists of groups of committed people who ship projects.
No projects, no organization. Coasting isn’t an option because projects don’t last forever. The people stick around, the posture persists, but the projects need to be refreshed. After a project is shipped, there’s no useful work until someone starts a new project.
As organizations have begun to coalesce around projects, they’ve made a startling discovery: the starting part is harder than it looks.
How to invent and choose and stick with or abandon ideas, how to select and predict and forecast the future of a project – this is all difficult.
And it begins with the initiator, the one who begins things.
The book is so good that I sat down on a Saturday evening to copy the above out by hand. Godin’s vision of what projects are so expansive. It’s an expression of leadership, a way of making a difference. In his definition, failure is an option. As Godin puts it, “Change is powerful, but change always comes with failure as its partner.”
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