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What Gets You Riled Up?

03presidential_debate0427Psst... I need to share a secret with you...

I'm playing a little trick on my blog readers at Carpe Factum.  I put out a post about the presidential campaign, but not because I really cared about the election, nor did I really want to know who is going to vote for whom.  I posted it because I wanted to test my readers' passion.  And it's working.  A mere 24 hours after posting, I had five responses, most of which reflected the commenters' passions (OK, so maybe one was just a smart-aleck buddy giving me a hard time).  But I did get their blood pumping about something.  Don't tell them I told you that, OK?

03debate600aBut this isn't about the election... or politics... it's about projects... and you.  What about you?  What about your teams?  It's Halloween season, but do you have trouble telling the Halloween zombies from the year-round zombies?  We push for projects, but where are we spending the energy capital to get from point A to point B?  Are people getting more excited about the result of the project, or are they burning each other out arguing about the means by which the project will be completed?  Phil Cubeta posed some interesting philosophical issues about clients, passion, and projects in a recent post:

I think we are passionate about means because our ends are so empty, so paltry, and so arbitrary, so unexamined that only by concentrating on the means to those ends can we avoid panic or despair.  The story of Diogenes and Alexander hits this off nicely.  Alexander visits the famous philosopher in his Dumpster, or at it was then called, his tub or barrel. When Diogenes asks Alexander the Great what he is up to, the general says, "I am off the conquer the world." When Diogenes asks what the general will do once he has achieved that goal, Alexander says he will rest. To which Diogenes replies, "See my dog sleeping in the sun? Why not lie down and rest with him now?"

The rest of his post, while emphasizing more philanthropic and estate planning issues, is worth the read because it applies to organizational projects as well.  When your teams give you the status on their projects, spend some time really LISTENING to them.  Test them with a couple of small bombshells, just to see what gets them riled up (note, these should be better passion-inducers than telling them that you're a Republican who's voting for Hillary):

  • "Do you think this project is really worth pursuing, given all of the effort you've put into it?  Do you think we should just cancel it right now so you can work on other things?"
  • "I've been reading this trade magazine about [insert whatever new fad is hitting your industry].  I think your project would be a perfect prototype to test this on."
  • "You know that new guy?  I like his project better than yours.  I'm diverting all of your resources to his project starting tomorrow.  If you want to continue with your project, you're on your own."
  • "Do you think your project would work better as a Six Sigma implementation or should we try Lean Manufacturing principles on it?"

How do you think they will react?  Will they fight for the end result of the project?  Or will they get more hyper about the means and effort expended on the project? 

The answer could tell you lots about them... and about your own leadership of the projects in your company. 

If your people care more about methodologies and measurements than they do about relevance and results, if they spend more money and energy on taking and talking than they do on achieving and accomplishing, you may need to step back and assess what your organization is really about... why are you in business... and do you have people who really want what you want? 

Where is your organizational project passion?  Is it in the means or the ends?

Think about it.  I know my Carpe Factum readers are.

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