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Inspirational Project Management

by Josh

Inspirational Project Management

We all do it.

Day after day we grind away at work, doing our jobs. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees anymore.

Finding Inspiration

Managing a project may seem mundane on a day-to-day basis, but I’ll bet you can find some pretty inspirational insights to share with your project teams when you think about it.

  • What is the ‘why’ of your project?
  • Who will it benefit?
  • What’s the difference between a world with, and without the product you are producing?

Case studies (even theoretical ones) are single yet powerful ways your product impacts or will impact the world.

My teams and I worry about different things day-to-day, like how to frame scenes like this from space so all data about a location is consistent over time, what metadata the scientific community needs and how to store and make it searchable and orderable, documentation, etc.

These seem like mundane things, and perhaps they are when you look at them as separate activities in isolation.

What we need is a change in perspective, a reminder of the goal.

Inspirational Leadership

I need to do a better job of this myself. I need to remind my teams what the forest looks like, why we are doing this.

So here’s my commitment to myself and my teams: I will find at least one inspirational case study demonstrating why our project adds value to the world and share it with them.

I encourage you to take the same pledge. Maybe for you it’s a testimony from an individual who was impacted positively by the work done at your agency. Perhaps you have to dig deeper on some projects.

If your agency regulates an activity, what are examples of negative consequences that have happened prior to regulation? Pointing those out will make it clear why your work adds value to the world.

Now for something I think is cool this month:

Recovering from Mt. St. Helens Explosion As Seen By Landsat Satellites

This is one reason I’m proud to be part of the team working on this mission. Aside from traditional uses of this data in agriculture, forestry, land use, water resources and natural resource exploration there are more ‘cool’ uses of the data like this.

What makes you and your teams proud of your projects?

Leave a Comment

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Chet Frame May 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I like the post. I really like the clip. Outstanding!

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Josh May 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Thanks Chet!

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Leam Hall May 26, 2012 at 3:14 am

There’s an old story that speaks of this.

One day a traveller, walking along a lane, came across 3 stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing. “I am cutting a stone!” The second kept on hammering while he said: “I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that it’s square, and its dimensions are uniform, so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall.” The third stonecutter, when asked the same question said: “I am building a cathedral.”

The more we can participate in something larger than ourselves or our daily lives, the smaller daily problems become and the longer we can press on.

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Josh May 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm

That’s a perfect parable Leam, love it!

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Adam Searcy May 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm

I like this sentiment. Try to find something in your projects which is unique and special. Can you look in the mirror and remind yourself that, “not everybody gets to do stuff like this every day”. I know that personally, I can get bogged down in the stress of it all and forget that some of the work I do is really neat. Keep that perspective and remain grateful. An important part of leading a team. Thanks.

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Josh May 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Thanks Adam. On the flip side, because I really need to have some kind of end reason in mind, some kind of inspiration it can also be a wake-up call.

I’ve been on projects that were literally a pet project of an executive with the authority to sponsor it, but added no value to any one. I wasn’t very happy, and actually ended up leaving the company before the project was done. I can’t say that was THE reason I left, but it certainly was a push for me to start looking for other opportunities.

I sometimes have a hard time with processes where I work currently too…it could be because it’s a federal agency I’m working for, but probably more just because it’s a very established environment. There’s a lot of “because this is the way we’ve always done it” or adding unnecessary steps because someone at some time wanted to, without any check on whether it added value or not. Therefore, lots of waste has piled up over the years.

But I can keep my fortitude up and try to influence these things as best I can when my teams and I have some inspirational vision of what our primary product is going to look like and who it will help when we’re all done.

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