What’s your WHY?

Ask any Project Manager, “Why does your project exist?”  and their answer will usually have a laser like focus and clarity: For example:
“The project will consolidate three production facilities into one state of the art location enabling synergy throughout the supply chain as well as greater quality control, resulting in a reduction in operating costs of £million per year as well as greater customer satisfaction.”

“Failure to make the business compliant with “important” legislation by the end of the year will result in a fine and our licence to operate being revoked.”.

As we can see projects exist in order to bring about some benefit to the business, or to avoid a liability.

Sometimes the heart of the WHY is missing though. There is often a much bigger WHY that sits behind what is being done and identifying that WHY, that TARGET, is so important. You have probably heard the story of President Kennedy visiting NASA in 1962 and asking the broom-holding janitor what his role was. The reply was, “Well, Mr President, I am here to put a man on the moon.”

Defining the “Why” for your project is part of the project process. We go through the steps of defining project outcomes, making sure all the stakeholders are aligned, working out what risks we face, figuring out how much effort and resource is needed and then calculating the cost in order to develop a fully costed business case.

However, ask the same project managers “Why are YOU working on this project?” and I’ll wager that only a few will be able to give that same level of clarity for themselves as they can for their project.

We all know that projects are tough.  We start new projects full of enthusiasm but know that at some point it will become more difficult to get out of bed in the morning and face the stakeholders or the customers or the team, asking ourselves why do we do this?

Extraordinary Project Managers have a focus not only on making sure that they do the very best job on the projects that they are currently working on; they also have a clear focus and purpose as to WHY they are putting all of that effort and resource into doing their best work. They have analysed the impact on their life (e.g. working away from home for a time) and the risks associated with it all going wrong and then weighed these up against the personal benefits that being involved will bring.

If you wouldn’t run a project without a sound Business Case why would you choose to run your career without something similar?  So if you are smart enough to define a ‘Why’ for the projects you are involved in, why are you not doing it for the most important thing: YOU?

At Extraordinary Project Management (EPM)  we dedicate a significant amount of time to helping project management people discover and understand their own “WHY” (Hint: It’s very rarely purely financial) and how they can expect this to change throughout the course of their career as they begin to mature and understand what is really important to them.