Project Management Institute

Building a cathedral or making bricks?


People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. - Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (Kubler-Ross, nd, ¶1)

Enthusiasm is contagious. As a leader, do you inspire your team members to be part of building a cathedral or are you inspiring them to make bricks? Do you make sure they have the big picture and they realize how this mundane task is part of a much more glorious result? Enthusiasm breeds attitude, attitude breeds creativity, creativity breeds contribution, contribution breeds ownership, and ownership breeds results. As the leader you must set the stage with enthusiasm.

This paper will explore the power of enthusiasm and look at several motivational characteristics that help leaders exude enthusiasm and inspire team members to help build cathedrals. Does your leadership spark the energy that inspires enthusiastic people and maximizes their capability? As a leader, do you actively listen to what they have to say? Do you describe tasks in terms of parts of a bigger goal? Do you treat people with value?

The Project Manager has a wide breath of influence in setting the tone and spirit of the project. You have the power to inspire team members to help build the cathedral instead of making bricks. You interaction with team members, quality of status reports, taking quick and appropriate actions all set a professional atmosphere that can inspire members to contribute above the task. By establishing the setting that rewards positive behavior and discourages selfish behavior, you will find better teamwork and start exceeding the sum of the parts.

A Story

There is a story about two people in the middle ages that were out in a field stomping hay and mud together and then putting them in a wooden form so they could dry in order to make bricks. Now this was during the Renaissance and these men were not slaves, but were poorly paid serfs. These particular bricks were being made for a new church. As was the custom in those days, churches were grand architectural masterpieces, true works of art that stand today. They were majestic, awe inspiring, and a symbol of man’s capabilities. The story goes that one day, an officer of the church was out inspecting the brick making. It was a hot humid day and the work, as you can imagine, was difficult. The mud smelled bad, the straw poked into the feet of the workers, and the mashing of mud was physically tiring. As the church officer was ignorant of what was being done with the mud and bricks, he walked over to the men, he asked the first serf what he was doing. The man in a disgruntled voice snapped “I am making bricks”. “OK”, said the officer and he moved onto the second man. This man was extremely positive, he was humming a church hymn and he had a bounce in his step as he was mixing the mud and the straw. “What are you doing?” Asked the officer, and although he was doing the same chore as the first man, his response was completely different. His reply was “I’m helping build a cathedral to worship my Lord”

One moral of this story is that the power of enthusiasm helps make even mundane tasks enjoyable.

Another moral to the story is that having a sense of purpose motivates people to excel in their work.

This paper is going to explore these two morals.

A lesson from this story is that people perform better when they are enthusiastic, inspired, and understand their purpose in the big picture.

As a P3 Manager (Project, Program, or Portfolio Manager), you identify all the tasks that need to be completed in a work effort. These tasks are identified via a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS or PWBS) and you then assign people, or organizations, to complete those tasks. Traditionally, a P3 manager does not directly manage people, but does track the status of tasks that are completed by people. Thus success is based a person’s individual approach to completing task and success will occur when these individuals handle the task with enthusiasm and a sense of pur-pose. The P3 Manager needs to instill a sense of helping build the cathedral.

The Challenge to the Project Manager

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide®) (PMI, 2008) includes nine integrated knowledge areas. These knowledge areas identify a defined series of Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Outputs to best achieve results. However, the PMBOK Guide® does not factor in the need for the project manager to inspire the workers to perform, nor how to balance their work efforts across multiple projects. The project manager’s most significant value-add is to inspire the team to produce and excel. At the 2008 PMI North American Global Congress, in Denver, Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell made the statement: “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.” (Powell, 2008, ¶1) In order to realize this claim, the leader, or P3 manager, must create an atmosphere of enthusiasm, purpose, and value.

In the 2011 workplace, very few people are 100% dedicated to a single project. Many times they are performing “Run The Business” (RTB) activities while participating in “Improve The Business” (ITB) projects. Each day they go to work, they need to decide what tasks to work and what level of detail they wish to put into the tasks. This decision is based on their personal motivation. The choices may be made based on commitments and deadlines, or even threats from the boss, but that motivation is inspired via the results they will receive once the work is completed. If the result is one that provides the worker with a sense of value, they are most likely to continue wanting to perform those tasks. Thus, the P3 manager can establish a value chain in which the people completing the tasks are inspired to help build the cathedral instead of making bricks.

Set the Tone

The P3 manager has a great deal of influence regarding the tone of the project and the associated WOW! Factor. When the P3 produces reports on a timely basis, starts meetings on time, contacts team members between status meetings, and conducts them with an attitude of Wow!, the team members will be inspired via the enthusiasm and more likely to want to contribute. There is a great deal of discipline required to set a positive tone day in and day out. Besides the normal ebb and flow of a project, there are days when the enthusiasm isn’t as strong, or things are not going as planned or a team member is not pulling their weight. How do you keep that enthusiasm and the tone? Dale Carnegie has a famous quote in the training on “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and it goes: “if you act enthusiastic, you will be enthusiastic,” (Carnagie, 2011 ¶1) This is where the leadership of the P3 manager becomes the driving force in setting the tone for the project. Enthusiasm is contagious, and some days you might just have to create your own and it will morph from being forced to being natural, the team members will embrace it and make it more powerful, and people will start to be building the cathedral instead of making the bricks.

Get all Members of the Team to “Help Build the Cathedral”

People will embrace the bigger picture and have more enthusiasm if they feel they are valuable. The P3 Manager needs to treat people with value. This is not accomplished by one kickoff call where you say: “people are our most valuable asset”! It is accomplished piece by piece, day by day with every interaction. For example, a P3 manager is more likely to get a quicker resolution to an issue if they call the issue owner during the week to talk about it. Ask questions like: Do you agree it’s your issue? Do you think the priority is correct? What are barriers to completion? What do you think is a solution instead of a band-aid approach? Asking team members questions like this, outside of status meetings, establishes trust and value. If issues are only covered once a week in status meetings, you will get week by week progress. In his book “Stop Playing Games” (2010) Rich Morris presents an example about how often time at status meetings people give a cursory status that will deflect the resolution from them to somebody else. Morris further goes on to say that it’s possible the team member got a reminder pop-up on their screen that says the meeting starts in 15 minutes, they remember they had an issue to report on and send out a quick email asking somebody a question. Then when that issue comes up in the status meeting, the person says: “I sent off an email to person XYX” and am waiting for their response. No progress, no value, lost productivity for the team. However, if the P3 manager keeps it alive and let the person solving know it’s important to you, via your behavior, not only will it help resolve the problem, it most likely will prevent future problems. By seeking team member input and respecting them as a valuable member of the team, team members will start to see their tasks as a part of the bigger picture, and they are part of the bigger picture when you do these things, they will start to self-motivate as a person helping to build the cathedral.

Give Team Members a Sense of Purpose

An understanding of Purpose is perhaps the most essential component of getting the team to ‘understand the vision’ and contribute positively. Once an individual understands their purpose – they will then know why they have to per-form the tasks they need to do and why they have to do the mental conditioning required for team success. The sense of Purpose defines us as whole people and not just resources on a team.

Tressel and Purpose

Exhibit 1 – Tressel and Purpose

Jim Tressel was a very successful college football coach, His teams have won the national title in both Division I at Ohio State and Division II at Youngstown State, his Ohio State team has won an unprecedented six straight Big Ten Conference football titles, and scores of players have gone onto very success pro careers in the NFL. Every year, Tressel produced a leadership manual for the members that became their guidebook for being leader’s expectations of themselves as a member of the Ohio State Football team. Tressel’s leadership model involved the Block O of Life, as shown in exhibit one, and consisted of two main parts Purpose and Goals. He explains the definition of purpose as follows:

“Purpose comprises those aspects of life that define who we are as individuals and the kind of people we want to become. We start with Purpose because we know that our spiritual beliefs and ethical values, and our commitment to personal integrity, family, and community, will become the foundation for all of our goals and everything else we do in life. By starting with Purpose, we establish the importance of becoming whole people, not just good football players.” (Trestle, J., 2001, p 19)

Author’s Note: In May, 2011, Jim Tressel resigned as the head coach at Ohio State due to a controversy surrounding his disclosure, or lack of disclosure, of his players accepting gratuities in violation of NCAA rules. Tressel admitted wrong and that he did not do as he should. I wrestled with the thought of using his examples or omitting them because of this mistakes, I have chosen to keep the references and not to tarnish some of his wonderful methods and insights due to his indiscretions. Regardless of the outcome of this situation, his record still stands as a successful coach with a history of people who understood their purpose and performed at a championship level.

“Who We Are” versus “What We Do”

The Goals portion of the Block O helps to define accomplishments an individual wants to achieve in support of their purpose. To translate this to project management and the business world, goals are defined in being able to complete assigned tasks with your job (be they project or non-project tasks) in support of your purpose. If you purpose is to be a professional project, program, or portfolio manager. As the title of this section states, purpose is who we are, goals is what we do. By fostering the definition of “Who I Am” over “What You Do” the P3 manager is recognizing the value that a person contributes to the overall success of the P3 event. No longer is the person a resource that has to complete a task within a certain set of parameters, instead they are a contributing member of a group that is helping to solve a business problem. They have started to build a cathedral, where the making of bricks is part of the task to achieve that vision.

Tressel continues to emphasis the important of Purpose by quoting Jerry Jenkins, coauthor of the best-selling Left Behind book series. Jenkins “makes a similar point about the stories he writes. He says, ‘Regardless of what we write, from books to articles, they should never simply be about something. They must always be for the purpose of something.’ So it is with our lives. We were created not just to exist, not just to pass through this world and be about something, but to live with purpose. Fulfilling our purpose is part of who we are. But what we’re about—the goals we set, the dreams we have—is part of what we do.” (p7) To carry this concept a little further, a person fulfills a purpose to help define who they are, not what they can do. This tone is set by the P3 manager and reinforced with every personal interaction during the life of the project, and it isn’t just with peers and subordinates, it also applies to the sponsors and executives.

To finish this section on sense of purpose, I have found a very simple way to define if I was a successful project manager. If a member of my team lists their contribution a project as the top accomplishment on their resume, then I have helped define a purpose. If they have decided to highlight their credentials by using my project as the example of who they are, their purpose, they I did something right as a project manager.

Team Member can sign their Masterpiece

Another important aspect of allowing a team member to ‘Build the Cathedral” is by getting out of the way and let them ’sign their work’. Since a great deal of my career has centered around IT projects, I have had a great deal of interaction with programmers. I have found that code writing is an art form and that the artist, programmer, what’s to put their interpretation, or their signature, on the code itself. Be if how they structure certain functions, or how they link modules together – it is their statement, an identity. The best thing I can do as a P3 Manager is to let them sign their masterpiece, let them practice their craft. Now I understand the entire issue of standards and maintainability, and other real-life requirements to have a quality IT product, but there is latitude in there in which the developer can add their signature. By encouraging, and recognizing, the thought, skill, and art that went into developing a project deliverable – you have provided a sense of “who you are” become a component of “what you did”/ That trust that they can do the job, will help them feel as though they are helping to build the cathedral.

John Wooden’s Pyramid of Leadership

The underlying concept of inspiring team members to be helping build the cathedral instead of making bricks is firmly embedded in the concept of leadership. The concept of who we are, versus what we do is reinforced by the way we act as a leader, the words we use, and our behavior. I am going to reference another college athletic coach to help demonstrate the importance of leadership by building upon the relationship you have with the other person. John Wooden is one of the most successful coaches in the history of athletics. He coached the UCLA Bruins to eight consecutive NCAA Basketball titles and navigated this team through a part of history in which social turmoil was the norm and adherence to any conviction was suspect. Wooden shared his philosophy on how he achieved success through several books and on a simple model. His model, the “Pyramid of Success” is provided in Exhibit 2. In this pyramid, Wooden explains that success is composed of 15 building blocks of a person’s individual traits along with a series of 12 Lessons in Leadership that help define how you should react with others in your relationships. What I like about this model, is that it emphasizes you can build and create these traits and behavior through hard work, discipline, and life-long learning. And by developing your own identify through developing these traits, you can become a person of integrity (who you are) and inspire others to also develop these traits so they become successful contributors to the team goal (how you lead). The good news for anybody reading this, is that you can help all members of your team feel as though they are helping build the cathedral and thus performing at the pinnacle of their ability and helping to spread that enthusiasm.

Entire books and workshops have been written about Wooden's Pyramid of Success and his 12 lessons in leadership and I suggest you get a copy of his book to further understand these concepts. Before moving on, It want to quote an excerpt from the book written by the Editors of New Word City in the book John Wooden's Winning Ways high-lights the lifelong impact of how Mr. Wooden helped his players achieve success.

“But the winning record, Wooden would tell you, was a byproduct. At bottom, his leadership reflected his concern for his players, his role as a teacher preparing young men for life. Recalling the day he reported as a rookie and Wooden showed him how to lace up his sneakers, Bill Walton said, “We thought he was nuts.” But in hindsight, “It was the greatest gift John Wooden gave to me, the ability to learn to learn,” Walton told Richard Hoffer of Sports Illustrated. “That day he was giving us something to build on, a foundation. And through years of observing him, his attention to detail, all his little things, I realized his teaching was timeless, like a Grateful or Bob Dylan song. Everything went back to the foundation.” (2010)

Wooden on Leadership

Exhibit 2 – Wooden on Leadership

Exhibit 3 below extracts Wooden's Pyramid of Success. The left hand column identifies the blocks along with quotes on each, the right hand column extracts the twelve lessons of Leadership. This information is extracted form Wooden's Books on Leadership as identified in the bibliography.

Wooden's Pyramid of Success

Exhibit 3 – Wooden's Pyramid of Success

Wooden demonstrated success through getting people to perform their best by treating them with value and helping them define who they are. He retired from coaching almost 40 years ago and his believes life on and are often cited by Leadership experts. He was an impressive man who left an impressive legacy that all leaders can use to become more effective.

The Behavior Triad

Exhibit 4 graphically represents a small Triad of Behavior in a human being. This Triad represents satisfaction as a foundation that all people seek, satisfaction drives our personal sense of worth – or “Who We Are” Satisfaction is nurtured by a combination of inspiration and motivation. Inspiration helps define our satisfaction and in turn our satisfaction can drive us to inspire others. Motivation is the internal force that drives personal behaviors that in turn helps us grow and expand our range of skills, knowledge, ability, and accomplishment in order to maintain satisfaction. Finally, there is a relationship between Inspiration and Motivation. Inspiration is an external factor that is used to fuel an individual’s motivation. Although today’s vernacular tends to use inspiration and motivation interchangeably, there is a big difference as far as a P3 Manager

The Behavior Triad

Exhibit 4 – The Behavior Triad


The cathedral story is based on the concept that people seek satisfaction in their job. In a nutshell, satisfaction is a means of measuring to what degree do you like your job. While a major of the influencers around satisfaction involve quantitative factors such as pay, location, title, and benefits – there is a spiritual level of satisfaction that also plays a major role in a project team member’s satisfaction. This satisfaction is the foundation of the behavior triad. A person wants to be valued! A satisfied team member is more likely to be motivated and therefore easier to inspire. Walls of cynicism are lowered and the reinforcement of excellence and team are emphasized. A project manager should consistently reinforce satisfaction by treating people with value. Acknowledge they are doing their best, say thank you, and USE their feedback. These simple behaviors will have positive results.


As a manager, we have the power to inspire people to do their best. Inspiration is the component that a P3 Manager will use to motivate individuals to want to do their best and in turn increase their personal satisfaction. Inspiration is an external stimulus that is reinforced every day. Words of inspiration are a good start, but the P3 manager inspires through daily interaction with the team. It can include keeping the vision in front of the members, helping through the excessive demands, appreciating the work effort. A combination of emotional intelligence on when to necessitate (breathe life into) a person’s spirit and how to make that message effective. As the triad illustrates, External Inspiration – fuels Internal Motivation.


A recent study by MIT has shown that money is not an effective motivator for improved performance for high cognitive, professional skill based jobs such as project management and business analysts. As a matter of fact, it has shown that increased monetary incentives decreases performance and actually results in lower quality work.

Instead of money, the study demonstrates that performance is improved and motivation increased through three per-son-defining attributes: Purpose, Autonomy, and Mastery.

  1. Purpose – help each person understand why they are part of the team and the reason they are in the position they are in.
  2. Autonomy - is the concept of freedom and self-direction and allows a person to individualize their contribution.
  3. Mastery allows an individual to utilize a complete understanding of a skill set to meet the needs of the team. It allows the individual to use the best they have to be a key component of a final positive result.


Values are an extremely person characteristic that people use to determine right from wrong. A Google Search of “what are values” will return millions of hits – but it comes down to a personal definition of their values. For the purpose of this paper, we will use how the US Army defines values:

“Values are what we, as a profession, judge to be right. They are more than words-they are the moral, ethical, and professional attributes of character… there are certain core values that must be instilled in members of the U.S. Army-civilian and uniformed soldier alike. These are not the only values that should determine our character, but they are ones that are central to our profession and should guide our lives as we serve our Nation.” (National Defense University, nd, Chapt 15 ¶4)

This definition implies that there is a certain core attributes that must align between a person’s beliefs and their work environment. I am making a major assumption here that the organization values supersedes the project values and that organization values are a significant influence in effective inspiration and motivation. Values area an iatrical part of our human makeup and are the foundation for our mindset, what we consider right and wrong, what can inspire us, and what motivates. While entire dissertations are written on values and behavior, this section of the paper wished to address Values and the P3 manager in inspiring team members.

Your Motivation is influenced by Your Values

We have said that motivation occurs from within – and it is molded by our values. We are motivated as a result of how the inspiration and reward aligns with our values. So in order to inspire others, you must be motivated, yourself, and the motivation must support your values. If your core values assume people want to do a good job and take pride in their work, then being motivated to inspire is much easier. If your core value leans more toward skepticism and that people only work to make a buck – you will have more difficulty motivating yourself to inspire.

You Inspire People when You Connect with their Values

The success of your inspiration will occur with your behaviors connect with the values of your team member and thus motivates them to excel. Returning back to the Brick and Cathedral, the enthusiastic serf had a belief if a divine being. A value that there is a God who looks over him and is worthy of praise. With that core value being reinforced, the motivation to do the best at building bricks was accentuated.

A Real Life Example of a Values Oriented Organization

It was stated earlier in this document about the overall impact of organization values. I have been fortunate in my career to be part of an organization that was based on a system of values and treating each other with value. The AT&T College and University Solutions (ACUS) organization was created by a gentleman named Rick Walker. Rick was a vice president at a major company, but successfully created a culture where he obtained more than the science of management says was possible.

The entire ACUS team (ranged to as large as 300 people) all participated in the family values. I know many organizations talk about family and it becomes a trite statement, but this organization had items in place to reinforce the behavior. Every member spent time discussing their family values with Rick Walker when they joined the organization. Each associate was giving a set of stickers monthly to acknowledge a teammate honoring the family values (after a certain number of stickers were received, they could be cashed in for a gift certificate), the team had a monthly “How the Best Gets Better” meeting in which the values were stressed and reinforced via speakers or video. The values were lived day in and day out. Exhibit 5 is a graphic of these family values. With such an environment, it was much easier to inspire others to excel.

ACUS Family Values

Exhibit 5 – ACUS Family Values


Exhibit 6 summarizes the objective of this paper. That a P3 manager’s success is dependent on the team members being motivated. You cannot motivate, you can inspire and that inspiration will feed the motivation. People will also seek job satisfaction and the level of job satisfaction and recognition of their value will influence their motivation. Finally – all inspiration and motivation aligns with an organizational values, which must in turn align with an individual’s values.


Exhibit 6 – Summary

Accepting the role of inspiratory is a great risk for a leader, a P3 manager. But when you connect, it transforms requirements into guidelines, utilizes trust instead of fear, and threatens the traditional concept of money being the reward for performance which shifts the “power” the person in charge has over controlling the behavior, and thus deliverables, of members of the team.

Your team members will be helping to build a cathedral instead of doing the task of making bricks!!!



Chander, S. & Richardson, S. (2008) 100 Ways to Motivate Others, Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press

Carnegie, D (1936) In Retrieved from

David, D. (nd) Dave Davis Project Governance & Guiding Principles Model. Retrieved from

Kubler-Ross, E. (nd) In Retrieved from are like stained-glass windows-they/8840.html.

Mayo Clinic (2010) Job satisfaction: How to make work more rewarding Retrieved from

National Defense University (2005) Strategic Leadership and Decision Making Retrieved from

Powell, C (2008) Leadership Primer Retrieved from

Project Management Institute (2008) A Guide to the Program Management Body of Knowledge Fourth Edition, Newtown Square, PA: Author

The Editors of New Word City (2010). John Wooden’s Winning Ways (Insights From Great Business Minds) [Kindle Edition] New Word City, Inc

Tressel, Jim (2001). The Winners Manual. [Kindle Edition], Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Wolvin, A.D. (2010) Listening and Human Communication in the 21st Century Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated

© 2011, David L. Davis
Originally published as a part of 2011 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Dallas, Tx‥ USA



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