Friday, 25 April 2008

The Earth Is Project-Shaped

For all you project obsessives out there, there is a fascinating podcast from BBC Radio's 'Global Business' programme about how working in organisations is changing radically. Professor Lynda Gratton from the London Business School observes how increasingly we're not doing one job, but working on fixed limited-time projects beyond the parameters of our day jobs. Whether in proper jobs or in my self-employed business, my whole career has been about PROJECTS and I love 'em. Whether it's a one-day project or a 12-month project, they all have a middle, a beginning and an end. They all have a client and – hopefully – someone to invoice at the end. Professor Gratton says that whilst a project culture has always been part of such companies as McKinsey, organisations are changing and the culture in for example, the Royal Bank of Scotland is that everything is now a 30, 60 or 90 day project. Gratton talks about the benefits of large project teams collaborating across-discipline and across-countries.

I too work in cross-discipline project teams. On a current project I am part of a team that includes members in the US, Europe, South Africa and The Middle East. And most of those people I have not even met face to face – it is very much a virtual team, as are many of my projects. The programme talks about the success of such teams when Nokia wanted to develop a new 'phone for the Chinese market, they formed a cross-cultural, cross-gender, cross-nation team. And the more diverse the team, the more effective at innovation. In Nokia's case it was a success.

I agree with diversity in teams but 'small is beautiful' in my experience. Keep the team small and everyone can make a contribution, everyone stands a chance of making a difference. If a team gets too big then it can become an unwieldy group with group emails, conference calls and all the baggage! So keep it project-shaped always but keep it focused and keep it small. You can achieve more that way, be more entrepreneurial, more innovative and ultimately more effective. Because a project that is not implemented is not a project, it's just an idea.

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