The Properties of "Why"

[article]
Creating Meaningful Projects
  • on the project. Perhaps you have experienced the feeling of buying into a vision, working hard to bring that vision to life, only to find out that the vision was no longer relevant.

Maintaining a Meaningful Environment
The responsibility for maintaining a meaningful environment does not just fall on the shoulders of those who sponsor, create, or lead projects. Everyone on a project is responsible. When anyone does not see these benefits, we can ask these questions to gain an understanding of why:

  • Do I understand the project's purpose and its significance in the context of the organization's business model?
  • Have I done a good job of communicating these to the project team members?
  • Have I acted to undermine the meaningful environment earlier established?
  • Do I understand how this project and its deliverables fit into the organization?
  • Have I communicated this fit?
  • Do I understand the framework the project is using to get its work done?
  • Have I communicated my support of this framework to the project team?

If "no" is the answer to any of these questions, it is time to renew the Project Charter publicly. Bring it out of mothballs, get everyone together, and figure out what parts of the charter people do not understand or have forgotten. Then recommission the project so that these parts are well understood and will not be forgotten.

If you have trouble answering these questions, talk to people working on the project. Ask them what they are working on and ask them if they understand why. Do not accept answers like "Because I was told to" or "Because it's in the project plan." If project team members cannot answer these simple questions, then you have another reason to renew the Project Charter.

The Payoff
I want to understand why I am being asked to do something. I want my fellow project team members, leaders, and sponsors to also understand and behave consistently with that why. When I do not see that, I want to feel free to ask why. When I can ask why and when I get straight answers, my respect for those who answer grows. And I feel respect from them because they trusted me enough to give me straight answers. The give and take in these frank discussions is the essence of creating a meaningful environment for projects.

Provide the raw materials for a meaningful environment: the project's purpose, its significance, its fit, and a framework for its work. Project team members will fashion a meaningful role for themselves that supports the broader meaning. They will believe in the project and will work smartly toward its successful outcome.

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