The Soul of a Project #5: Are You a Project Luddite?

by Gary Monti on February 26, 2012

Jack Black in “School of Rock” presented a rather sophomoric but passionate statement regarding, “Sticking it to the Man.” His character, Dewey Finn, decries the loss of soul and individual creativity induced by a regimented atmosphere designed to supposedly create opportunities for getting ahead. Well, he’s not really that angelic since it is a cover for his self-promoting, irresponsible ways…initially.  Finn does eventually get swept up in the idea and experiences self-discovery and a personal transformation which benefits the school community.

How this rings true in projects plays out in answering question, “Does the individual get driven over in the name of success?”

Magical Thinking

In over 25 years of teaching project management there is fairy tale attitude that surfaces on an almost constant basis, magical thinking. It typically comes from the business unit and goes something like this, “Since we’ve spent all this money on project management training we can promise the customer whatever it takes to close the deal and the PMs will have to make it work. We don’t have to be disciplined. We just have to paint the big picture and then pressure the PMs to ‘make it so.’ “ There’s a harsher word for this magical thinking, it’s called “abuse.”

Project Luddites

Recoil to this attitude was violently expressed two hundred years again in England by the Luddites. The Luddite movement is mistakenly viewed as being anti-technology. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! A lot of the Luddites were quite sophisticated technologically. What they were against was the dumbing-down of jobs and the trivialization of the employee through the division of labor and the physically- and mentally numbing consequences of pushing for production while simultaneously removing any signs of unique, individual performance.

Project Success

Being a project Luddite makes you invaluable. If you become one, team members and stakeholders will find you invaluable. As stated in previous blogs, you will be giving them one of life’s most precious gifts. You will see them! Yes, there are curmudgeons and people suffering from antisocial personality disorder. But, yes, they tend to be few and far between with most people wanting to have a sense of place and being recognized.

What usually differs is the style in which people prefer being seen. Some just want an environment where they can express themselves quietly through the creative process of their work. Public displays of appreciation make them very uncomfortable even angry. Others want to have more of an employee-of-the-month-parking-spot approach where having their recognition be public is important.

Said another way, find a person’s sense of flow and lean into it. Imagine what it would be like if the project stopped being work and became a way to connect with oneself and those associated with the project. Think of how far you could go with an entire team of people feeling that way. So, stop reading, be a Luddite, and go connect!

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