3 Steps from Zombie Projects to WOW Projects
Wikepedia defines Zombies as fictional undead creatures regularly encountered in horror and fantasy themed works. They are typically depicted as mindless, reanimated corpses with a hunger for human flesh, and particularly for human brains in some depictions.
A project is a project is a project?
I wish it were this easy. The good news is that more and more companies and organizations realize the value of project – and to a lesser extent the need and value of good project management.
I have seen, worked on and led many projects. The ones most memorable were those projects where things were flowing. That is, the team worked as a team, performance was outstanding due to synergy effects, quality of deliverables exceeded clients‘ expectations and everyone was just happy and proud to be part of the project. I call such projects WOW projects. And it this kind of projects I love to work on, build or lead.
Zombie projects may still get the basics of project management right
My strong desire for WOW projects may explain my frustration every time I work on or for “suboptimal” projects that have more or less nothing to do with WOW. It is not that these projects lack project management fundamentals. Indeed, often they do cover the basics. That is:
(1) project objectives were defined (mostly top-down by management),
(2) functional and non-functional requirements were described and documented (more or less),
(3) a project organization was put in place,
(4) a project plan was posted on the walls, and
(5) project management tools available.
So far for the basics.
And yet, there was nothing which resembled the WOW factor even at the lowest level.
Zombie projects lack the soul and spirit of WOW projects
While these projects covered the basics of project management they lacked the “soul” or “spirit” that makes WOW projects tick. Team morale on such projects is often in the lower ranks. The quality of deliverables is satisfactory at best. Long working hours are the norm and this is reflected in errors and delays in deliverables. Transparency about progress, actual issues and potential risks is mirky and not welcome – because, after all, management wants to hear good news.
Working on such projects can be tiring and energy draining. It is a job, ok. But no more.
Does this sound familiar? If so, continue reading.
3 steps to WOW projects
The causes for suboptimal projects are not limited to the lack of leadership or a true team. It is more than that. It is an attitude and a principle approach how you build, grow and nurture projects. So, let’s have a look at what it takes to build the foundation for WOW projects to evolve:
Step 1: Listening and learning
The first step to growing a WOW project is active and intense listening, learning about the needs, motivation and vision of people and the organizations. It helps sorting out the playing field of the project and how it fits into the larger system of an organization and its people.
Step 2: Developing awareness
Based on the insights of step 1 gather your project team and stakeholders and find out what you truly try to achieve in your project. This means, find out and agree on the MVP’s of your project, i.e., the motivation, the vision and the project objectives of your project. Expand this exercise to the MVP’s of individual team members and the team as an organizational unit.
Once you have developed strong MVP’s, work on engagement rules for nurturing collaboration, promoting performance, cultivating learning and ensuring results.
Step 3: Performing and aligning
Now, walk your talk. Start working, practice, fail and learn from your mistakes. Make necessary alignments and perform.
WOW projects evolve and are very much alive
Steps 1 -3 may imply that they are sequential. This is right and wrong. When you start a project you go through this sequence. However, aligning always includes listening and learning which is Step 1 of growing a WOW project. This takes you back to the beginning of the 3-step process. Insights from each step are integrated in each of the other steps and vice versa.
From this perspective it is more practical to depict the process as a Venn diagram which each circle standing for one of the three steps. The intersection of these three circles is where the WOW ignites and spreads.
In other words, the combination of listening & learning, developing awareness, performing & aligning spark WOW projects.
As you iterate each of the three steps, border lines blur, it becomes increasingly difficult to depict one step from the other. One element feeds the others and vice versa. The iterative learning and growth process of this project become intertwined and infinite. This is illustrated in the picture on the left.
Start growing your WOW project today
Even the longest journey starts with the first step. On this token, I encourage you and your team to have a closer look at your own project(s). Follow the three steps described above and start building your own WOW project today.
Need help? Please contact me. I help you build WOW projects through customized workshops and trainings. Workshops can be as short as 2 hours or several days depending on your needs. Or, if you like, I can accompany your journey over a period of several weeks through coaching and consulting.