Friday, June 12, 2009

Poignantly perpetuate your project's purpose


This is a not a book review.

I tend to review PM books, but also read some general management books and note their applicability to project management. That's the case with Nikos Mourkogiannis' Purpose. I heard about the book on several podcasts and decided it would be a good read - and it was.

What I would like to do in this brief post is to share a couple of takeaways from the book for project managers.

The book is about how organizations can "purpose" themselves for success, and one of my assertions about project management has always been that it is a microcosm for organizations in the larger sense. But, as we all know, there are also differences - significant ones - between projects and operations. So one must look carefully for the gems in books like this that can be adopted and molded a bit to fit into the context of a project.

One such gem is Mourkogiannis' determination of the sources of energy for the company - or in our case, sources of energy for the project.

The four purposes which I think you can apply to a project (just as the author applies to great organizations) are:
Discovery, Excellence, Altruism, and Heroism

Mourkogiannis' point is that although no two companies are alike, successful ones have excelled by drawing on one of these philosophies and "applying it with integrity". There is an undercurrent in the book about morality, one which makes even more sense in light of the recent embarrassing and shameful stories from financial and "insurance" companies such as AIG and the Madoff schemes*. This seems to make the book and its ideas even more relevant now. But I digress, I want to tie this to PM.

Below is what is in effect the heart and soul of the book. I still recommend that you read it but this captures the main idea.

I suggest that PMs could do best by focusing on the chapter, "The Real Value of Purpose", in which the author gives examples of how each of these moral purposes were "put to work" to build the culture for success at the companies he uses as examples. I think that PMs could model some of these purposes to infuse their projects with the same kind of culture and focus, paying attention to which one suits their project most aptly.

Check it out for yourself by going to the author's web-based purpose profiler.

And you can order the book from that same page. On purpose.

*AIG (as are other companies who were mired in greed and a lack of Purpose) is so embarrassed, in fact, that they are removing their own name from their own employees' badges and corporate buildings. I'm not kidding: see this article from today's news:
AIG Said to Remove Logo From Employees Badges.

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