Projects: The Enemy of Change?

On day two of unpremeditated reblogging, this post came across my feed. As an unashamed project doer, I can’t help but respond! I don’t think projects are the problem, in an of themselves. My best work is done when I’m up against a deadline, when I know there is a finish line and must pull out all the stops to get there. There’s certainly an ideal timeline, too tight and there isn’t room for creativity or, as importantly, collaboration and co-creation. As a project doer, whether my own or for a client, the quality of what we are able to achieve is a direct result of the quality of person we are able to convince to collaborate with us. Yes, convince, not compel. The first litmus test of any project is engagement. It sometimes takes perseverance, a small group of die hard ‘believers’ to jump the first few hurdles. But when I feel overrun with interest and enthusiasm, I know that what I am doing is a success. Not all projects end up the same way, but with each, I am able to expand my network, both inside and outside the organization I am with, learning as I go who can contribute what, and who I like to work with. The organization that is able to attract people who are enthusiastically interested in working together because of shared values and passions is the one who will be able to withstand and thrive in our changing environment because of the connections that we create between us. And my way of doing this is through projects. I need that light at the end of the tunnel, that goal I achieve, review and iterate, learning with each pass and project.

Thanks for inspiring this 5am rant Julian!

Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

To adapt our organisations to thrive in the Social Age will require a holistic pattern of adaptation: you cannot fix an ecosystem challenge with a single touch point. Reflecting on this got me thinking about projects, and more specifically whether projects are the enemy of change. Many aspects of organisational life are geared up around the definition of, procurement of, delivery of, and endpoint, of projects. And yet the real world, and the social systems that exist within it, have no start and end point. It’s possible that the unit of organisation we use most widely, the project, is itself both part of the resistance to change and part of the system we are trying to change.

Project. - the enemy of change?

I don’t wish to over dramatise, but there’s certainly something about the way that projects are delivered in isolation, whilst change requires an alignment of energy and holistic pattern of adaptation, or at…

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One Comment on “Projects: The Enemy of Change?

  1. Interesting reflection, Valerie. I like the idea that projects – a.k.a. the ‘coal face’, or ‘front-line’ – are the key space for you to build relationships, connections, both inside and outside the organisation.

    Inside projects, goals and deadlines often have firmer boundaries, compared to business as usual effort. As a goal-driven type, I too thrive in these situations. Projects are often a lively space, with unpredictable events. This is something that I feel supports my own creative thinking or doing … I’m certainly not one who craves repetition!

    In terms of projects being the blocker for change, as Julian suggested, I think while that can be true in some situations, in a truly AGILE, or CONTINUOUS DELIVERY project, the PROJECT IS DRIVEN BY CHANGE. Real-world feedback from those the project is aimed at, based on their real needs and experiences, so often drives unexpected outcomes, while continuously driving in the direction of value.

    Agile projects, run on Agile Principles (rather than strict PM frameworks) give us a new way to to consider requirements, aims, budgets, end consumers, and team boundaries. They also has clear, very short term, iterative and testable goals. Daily or even hourly validation of the direction.

    Is this a better approach for those of us driven by goals and deadlines?

    I wonder if this is this the new project approach that Julian is looking for?


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