Sunday, May 18, 2008

May 19, 2008 – Purpose Driven Projects

Last Friday I had the privilege of speaking at PMI-San Diego’s annual Project Management conference. There was a great turnout and several excellent key note speakers.

Friday’s lunch time speaker was Karen McBride, NASA Mars Program Executive, speaking about the upcoming Mars landing of the Phoenix project (5/25/08). She recapped how they managed the risks of attempting to land an expensive and extremely heavy piece of machinery 48 Million miles from Earth. The landing experience takes 7 minutes. At the speed of light, communications to and from the Mars Lander takes 15 minutes. Their mission is to put down at the pole and take samples of the ice and soil for 2 purposes:

  1. To study the history of water in the Martian arctic and
  2. Search for evidence of a habitable zone and assess the biological potential of the ice-soil boundary.

She was quick to remind us that they are not looking for life on Mars, just the potential for life.

The last speaker of the conference was Red Hat founder, Bob Young, whose latest endeavor is LuLu, the online self-publishing company. The purpose of the company is to eliminate traditional entry barriers to publishing and enable content creators and owners to be heard.

What is your project’s purpose? You can’t motivate your team to quality and getting to market solely on making the company more money. Understand the business purpose of the project and then translate that to how it will impact your customers.

Several years ago I heard a Project Management in an insurance company say their project could save lives. At first I thought it was a stretch, but after thinking it through I altered my perception a bit. If an error caused the company to deny necessary treatment coverage it could result in death.

Here are examples from some of my previous employers. For each there is a Reason and a Purpose. The reason simply states the scope of what we were doing. The purpose gives the effort a value.

American Greetings: Handheld Inventory Applications.
Reason – Accurately record returns and stock on shelves.
Purpose – Enabling the timely restock of cards to supply just the right thoughts, words and emotions to cheer a patient, brighten a day, thank a mom and encourage a child.

KeyBank: Customer Marketing Database.
Reason – Store customer information to identify additional sales opportunities.
Purpose – Proactively offering cost savings and financial opportunities for customers to enhance their lives by funding their dreams of education, home ownership and a better life.

Marymount Hospital: Y2K Application Testiong.
Reason – Ensure the applications would work successfully at the turn of the calendar.
Purpose – Ensure the functionality and security of patient treatment and information systems, without which the health and life of individuals may be at risk.

These are just three examples, but you can see the difference it makes to think through why the project was initiated. I can’t get too excited about a telemarketing database but a database of people with dreams to be funded I can promote.

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