Project Management Institute

Shared vision creates strong project teams


Joan Knutson, Contributing Editor by Benjamin J. Parker

THE FOUNDATION OF A PROJECT is built with the vision as a target. That shared vision becomes the goal of the project, further becoming the measure of completion and a point of accomplishment for the team. So why don't companies spend more time and energy on creating their vision—creating the foundation for their future and for all who work toward it?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines vision as “unusual competence in discernment or perception; intelligent foresight—a leader of vision; the manner in which one sees or conceives of something; a mental image produced by the imagination.” Two quotations also come to mind: Ralph Waldo Emerson said, Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. And from the Bible, the Book of Proverbs says, Where there is no vision, the people will perish.

Without vision and the criteria that will be used to judge the success of the project, the team will have no guidance and no ultimate target. Without clear understanding of the vision of an organization or project, it is difficult to keep team members enthusiastic about accomplishing the project. And without goals, an outstanding team has no objective, no sense of cause, and will soon degrade into just another group of individuals.

Project planning should include developing a clear and understood vision. An effective vision has several essential components: it should be concise and easy to memorize; it should be repeatable; and it should be important to the entire organization. A clear and shared vision becomes the goal of the project. Meeting the goal provides the team with a sense of accomplishment and success.

Consider this story: During her morning walk, a woman came upon three men cutting stones. Approaching the first man, she very politely asked what he was doing. The man responded, “I am cutting these silly stones! What does it look like I am doing?” The woman, slightly dazed, politely thanked him and walked away. Approaching the next man, she asked the same question. The second man replied, “I am cutting stones that will be used to build a magnificent new museum.” The woman politely thanked him and walked away. She approached the next man and again asked the same question. The third man replied, “I am cutting stones that will be used to construct a magnificent new museum. The museum will house many things from art to the remains of dinosaurs. This museum is funded by many philanthropies which recognize the need to preserve natural history.” The woman, dazzled with the man's response, thanked him and continued on her walk.

Benjamin Parker is a senior test engineer with Sprint Corp. in Kansas City, Mo., USA. He has been a team lead on domestic and international projects and currently develops plans for Sprint's Integration Testing department.

This story illustrates how a person's vision affects understanding of the task at hand. Becoming bogged down in the details is very easy. Like the first man, many people find themselves simply going to work. We forget that our role in the business is important to the success of the entire organization. The third man clearly understood his role in the entire project. He understood how important his role was to the success of the museum.

During the height of America's “Space Race,” a well-known company bought advertising space in several popular magazines. The advertisement showed a man standing in front of a large bank of computer monitors, each with a very busy technician in front of it. He was holding a broom and pushing a cart filled with janitorial supplies. The advertisement asked the man what his role in the “Space Race” was. The ad continued with the man stating that he is a member of the team responsible for putting a man on the moon.

The point of the advertisement was not to promote a janitorial service, but rather to remind the reader that all members of the team are important. From the janitor to the CEO, all associates have a role in the success of the entire project.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE for communicating the vision? Some would say the executives. Others might say their supervisors. The correct answer is everyone. The vision should be developed in cooperation with the team members and all essential stakeholders. A vision developed without the full participation of the entire team will not be fully shared. A project team without vision will quickly degrade to a random grouping of people attending the same conference calls. A solidly defined and well-understood vision is the basic starting point for all that happens within the project. ■

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July 2000 PM Network



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