The eXtreme Project Management™ Series: No. 6
Based on the forthcoming book:

eXtreme Project Management™ for Everyone

by Doug DeCarlo, Principal
The Doug DeCarlo Group

Finding the WOW! Factor for Your Project

Most project managers I know don't get out of bed in the morning, and exclaim, "Yes! I can't wait to get back to the office and continue to have fun doing project management." Just the thought of having to manage a project or be part of a project team can lower the energy level and mood of even the most gung ho.

Although most people simply don't get excited about being on a project, they may get excited about being on a mission. If the term "project" smacks of drudgery, then being on a mission is more like signing up for a cause.

Causes give meaning to work. They get the juices flowing. They energize. And they foster motivation and innovation because they unleash eXtreme Project Management Accelerator 4: People want to make a difference. "Hey, we're not on a project. We're on a mission!"

Reframing Your Project
There's an old saying that goes like this, "If you want to get a man to build a boat, get him to fall in love with the sea."

This is what Tom Peters is referring to when he uses the term "WOW Project!" (Peters, The Project 50) Peters goes so far as to say that you can take any task and redefine it into something exciting, even revolutionary, culture changing and job promoting:
  • An assignment to clean up the comp time policy turns into a project to revamp the entire compensation program and reward system
  • A task to organize the library leads to a new, company-wide knowledge management system
  • Being annoyed with scraps of paper used as book marks leads to the Post-It note
  • Success in applying project management to several small projects accelerates into a culture change as others contract project management envy
From A Project To A Mission
Reframing a project can really energize it. In 1985 the IDG Group, a high tech publishing company, hired me to create and launch a newspaper that became NetworkWorld. NetworkWorld was (and still is) a weekly tabloid for buyers and advertisers of voice and data communications products and services. Giving birth to a new publication in half the time in a highly competitive publishing market can be overwhelming, even if you have a unique niche as did our prenatal newspaper. Plus, the details and complexity of creating and launching a newspaper can be a nightmare. It's like trying to get 5,000 moving parts to work together. It was a drag; uninspiring and overwhelming. The problem was that many of us saw our project as just that: "starting a newspaper." So what? Such an endeavor at best had a flat if not dark energy associated with it. Getting up in the morning and thinking about the project was a real downer. We needed an upper.

Then one day, I was having a conversation with Bruce Hoard, the editor. He was really excited about the newspaper. Listening to Bruce, I realized that this was not about "starting a newspaper about computer networks." No. According to how Bruce saw the venture, it was really about "leading the world into the new age of information networking." WOW! That had meaning to it. I could get up for that. So could the rest of the staff. That simple reframing shifted the entire energy field of our project. We were leading the world. We were lighting the way. How audacious. How exhilarating. How empowering. How unstoppable we were. Within just two months of hitting the street we were near the top of the readership polls, a very uncommon kudo in the publishing biz.

If your project is suffering from so-what syndrome, here are some tips on finding the WOW! factor on any project.

WOW! Joggers
Finding the WOW! Factor can shift the project's energy by creating a sense of urgency and excitement. It serves as a catalyst, causing people to experiment and break the existing paradigm. That's what happens under emergency conditions: people spontaneously self-organize, believe failure is not an option and bypass the old rules. The context shifts. Even turkeys can fly in a tornado.

Here are some questions to help you identify the WOW! Factor, that catalytic mechanism that can turn your project around.

The key is to think of the impact that your project is intended to have; that is, the outcome, the benefit, the change it will produce. Ask, "What will be new and different as a result of this project?"

For example, ask yourself, your sponsor, and other advocates of your project �
    How will the project shake up the competition?
    Re-define the game?
    Keep us in business?
    Revolutionize our industry?
    Give people a better life?
    Save lives?
    Make heroes out of us?
    Improve our standing on Wall Street?
    Save jobs?
    Dramatically improve the bottom line?
    Break into new markets?
    Deliver a blockbuster new technology?
    Set a new industry standard?
    Increase personal wealth?
    Be the first one out there?
    Put a competitor out of business?
    Turn around a bad situation with an existing client?
    Liberate people from an age old, counter productive business process?
    Take early retirement?
Taking the time to find the WOW! factor can quickly take your project out of the doldrums. The best time to do it is during project initiation. But it's never to late to WOW them.

In part 7 of this series, I'll continue to highlight key topics for eXPM Critical Success Factor # 2: Leadership by Commitment.

Until the next time, keep the beat going.

eXtremely yours,


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